NFL Power Rankings for Week 5 (Oct. 2nd, 2014)

andre-ellington-cardinalsThe first bye week of the season saw our top three teams taking breaks. So it’s little surprise that the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals are still firmly planted at the top after their inactivity. But there are plenty of other big changes in our power rankings folllowing a week of upsets. That said, let’s look at who’s moving up and down as we enter Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season.

1. Denver Broncos (2-1); bye week, retains same ranking – Denver faces another tough test this week with the Arizona Cardinals visiting. However, we don’t expect this to be an overly difficult game for the Broncos for two reasons: 1) They’re playing at home, and 2) Arizona QB Carson Palmer seems doubtful to play because of the “misfiring” nerve in his shoulder.

2. Seattle Seahawks (2-1); bye week, retains same ranking – As if Seattle wasn’t already expected to win against the Redskins this week, they get a shaky Kirk Cousins coming off a 4-interception game. The Seahawks defense should feast in this one since they can both put major pressure on opposing QB’s and have excellent corners.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0); bye week, retains same ranking – Are the New England Patriots really as hopeless as they’ve seemed over the past two weeks? The Bengals are hoping so as they visit Foxborough this Sunday while trying to keep their unbeaten record intact. Even if they survive the Patriots, though, they’ll continue the gauntlet by facing the Panthers, Colts and Ravens after that.

4. Arizona Cardinals (3-0); bye week, moves up two spots – Arizona jumps into the upper echelon courtesy of teams above them losing. Along with Cincinnati, the Cardinals are the only undefeated squad left in the NFL. However, it’s difficult to see this remaining the case as they travel to Denver with backup Drew Stanton likely to start again. He fared really well against San Francisco, though, so it’s not inconceivable for Arizona to pull of the road upset.

philip-rivers5. San Diego Chargers (3-1); beat Jacksonville Jaguars 33-14, moves up three spots – We’re not that impressed with a blowout win over the Jaguars. However, San Diego has been very impressive throughout the season – including being the only team to beat Seattle – so they belong in the top 5. The injuries at running back are a definite concern moving forward, but Philip Rivers seems to keep getting it done, and the defense has far exceeded expectations.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2-2); beat Philadelphia Eagles 26-21, moves up three spots – San Francisco got their rushing attack going again, piling up 218 yards – 119 of them coming from Frank Gore. The defense also played well, picking Nick Foles off twice en rout to a second-half comeback. The latter is key because the Niners had been getting dominated in the second half and were finally able to reverse this trend.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1); lost to San Francisco 49ers, drops three spots – The Eagles have been flirting with a loss in every game they’ve played, falling behind early, only to come storming back. But this time, they went up early and faltered in the second half. They should easily win the NFC East, but Nick Foles’ inconsistency will be this team’s Achilles tendon.

8. Indianapolis Colts (2-2); beat Tennessee Titans 41-17, moves up three spots – It’s hard to gauge where Indianapolis is after two blowouts of lower-tier teams. However, they did play both Denver and Philadelphia tough in losses, adding legitimacy to their top-10 ranking. Assuming the Colts can eventually surround Andrew Luck with some real weapons, this team will be contending for the Super Bowl.

9. Detroit Lions (3-1); beat New York Jets 24-17, moves up seven spots – The fact that Calvin Johnson had just 16 receiving yards and this team won on the road shows that the Lions have truly become complete. This is backed up by the fact that Detroit was previously 0-6 when Johnson had 20 or fewer yards. With great players on both sides of the ball, they could continue moving up.

10. Baltimore Ravens (3-1); beat Carolina Panthers 38-10, moves up four spots – As expected, Steve Smith played like a man possessed against his old team – posting 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for a 35-year-old! Our main question here, though, is if Justin Forsett will really be the answer at running back.

aaron-rodgers-bet-211. Green Bay Packers (2-2); beat Chicago Bears 38-17, moves up two spots – One week after putting up a measly 7 points against Detroit, the Packers exploded for 38 points on the strength of Aaron Rodgers’ 302 passing yards and four TD throws. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb also turned in excellent performances with multi-touchdown games.

12. New England Patriots (2-2); lost to Kansas City 41-14, drops seven spots – It’s hard to give up on the New England Patriots four games into the season. But things are looking pretty bad right now – especially with regard to Tom Brady. The 37-year-old QB has one of the league’s worst passer ratings, promoting talk of if he’s washed up.

13. Dallas Cowboys (3-1); beat New Orleans Saints 38-17, moves up seven spots – Nobody has defied preseason expectations quite like the Cowboys have. First off, the defense was SUPPOSED to be dreadful after losing three top players from a unit that gave up the third-most yardage in league history. Secondly, DeMarco Murray has went from an oft-injured tease to an MVP candidate. His latest claim for this title: 149 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

jay-cutler-injury14. Chicago Bears (2-2); lost to Green Bay Packers 38-17, drops seven spots – We’re beginning to see an 8-8 season ahead of the wildly inconsistent Chicago Bears. As Jay Cutler goes, so too does his team. And considering his 7-for-13, two-interception performance in the second half, it’s little surprise that a close game turned into a rout.

15. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2); beat New England Patriots 41-14, moves up three spots – We’re still not sure how seriously to take the Chiefs this season, given that they don’t have the same cupcake schedule as last year. But over the past two games, they’ve looked like future Super Bowl champs with blowouts of Miami and New England.

16. New Orleans Saints (1-3); lost to Dallas Cowboys 38-17, drops eight spots – One stat that’s been thrown out quite often regarding the Saints is that less than 15% of 1-3 teams make the playoffs. If there’s a 1-3 team that has a shot at defying the odds, it’s definitely New Orleans. However, they’ve got to be more than just a team that can throw the ball.

17. Carolina Panthers (2-2); lost to Baltimore Ravens 38-10, drops four spots – Carolina continues their tumble after a second-straight terrible outing. And Cam Newton watched the end of another game from the bench. A huge reason why everything is going wrong for the Panthers is that they haven’t forced a turnover in the past two games. That’s quite a turnaround from the six they forced in their first two contests.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2); lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24, drops three spots – The Steelers are still in shock after giving this game away in the fourth quarter, where they were outscored 10-0. What’s amazing about the result is that Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, which is usually a recipe for a win.

ryan-tannehill19. Miami Dolphins (2-2); lost to Kansas City 38-14, moves up two spots – The Raiders’ strategy was to keep bringing pressure against Ryan Tannehill. But this time, the third-year QB responded by going 10-for-15 with 145 yards and a TD on throws where he was pressured. With the way that everybody is playing in the AFC East, the division is still wide open if Miami can take advantage.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2); lost to Houston Texans 23-17, drops one spot – Moving from one QB who excelled under pressure to one who faltered big time, EJ Manuel was 5-for-18 with 36 yards and two interceptions on throws where he was blitzed. He’s fared badly against pressure ever since taking over as the Bills starter, which is why veteran Kyle Orton will now be under center.

21. Atlanta Falcons (2-2); lost to Minnesota Vikings 41-28, drops four spots – Matt Ryan continues to put up impressive numbers, but he’ll have more trouble doing so after three of his O-linemen went down with injuries. The defense did a pretty poor job of stopping the run after giving up 241 yards on 44 rushes to Minnesota.

22. New York Giants (2-2); beat Washington Redskins 45-14, moves up one spot – After having such a poor running game last year, New York seems better able to balance their attack thanks to Rashad Jennings. Plus, the addition of Larry Donnell at tight end has given Eli Manning a very reliable weapon – just look at his three TD’s last game for evidence of this.

23. Houston Texans (3-1); beat Buffalo Bills 23-17, moves up two spots – We’re hesitant to put much stock into the Texans’ 3-0 start, given who all they’ve played. But now everybody gets to see what they’re truly made of as they travel to Dallas, play the Colts at home, then head out to Pittsburgh.

24. St. Louis (1-2); bye week, retains same ranking – Will Austin Davis be able to continue exceeding expectations? He’d better if St. Louis is to have a chance against the Eagles. This is especially the case when considering that Philadelphia will be hungry for a win after losing to San Francisco.

geno-smith-jets-225. New York Jets (1-3); lost to Detroit Lions 24-17, drops three spots – The outcry for Geno Smith’s benching continues to grow after yet another lackluster performance by the second-year QB. Rex Ryan’s refusal to sit Smith will end up costing him a job as the Jets enter a tough mid-season stretch.

26. Cleveland Browns (1-2); bye week, moves up one spot – Don’t be surprised to see Cleveland be .500 within a month. They play Tennessee, Jacksonville and Oakland in three out of their next four games. Given how tough the Browns have played against better competition, they should have no trouble grabbing a few wins with their schedule lightening up.

27. Minnesota Vikings (2-2); beat Atlanta Falcons 41-28, moves up two spots – Minnesota might be on to something with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and Jerick McKinnon running the ball. The latter rushed for 135 yards on just 18 carries, showing that the rookie is more than capable of taking over starting duties. Going back to Bridgewater, he’s a game-time decision for tonight’s contest against the Packers.

28. Tennessee Titans (1-3); lost to Indianapolis Colts 41-17, drops one spot – It’s a good thing that Jake Locker is expected to play this Sunday against Cleveland because Charlie Whitehurst just won’t get it done. Now we finally get to see second-round pick Bishop Sankey take over the starting running back role – will he pay dividends?

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3); beat Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24, moves up two spots – Mike Glennon made a case for keeping his starting job for good after racking up 302 passing yards and two TD’s. His last completion – a touchdown to Vincent Jackson – gave the Buccaneers their first win.

30. Washington Redskins (1-3); lost to New York Giants 45-14, drops two spots – This loss is easy to sum up when looking at Kirk Cousins’ stats: 19-for-33, 257 passing yards, 1 TD and 4 interceptions. The last number was killer as Washington continually gave the ball up on their home field.

31. Oakland Raiders (0-4); lost to Miami Dolphins 38-14, drops one spot – After playing inspired during a 16-9 loss at New England, Oakland fell completely flat against the Dolphins. They could really use their bye week to come back with a new plan, and to get rookie QB Derek Carr healthy again.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4); lost to San Diego Chargers 33-14, retains same ranking – Jacksonville has finally begun their youth movement, starting Blake Bortles and featuring Denard Robinson as a passing-down back. We doubt the moves will pay off in many wins this season. But at least they’re building towards a better future.

Knowshon Moreno may not be Answer for Miami Dolphins

knowshon-moreno-dolphins-starterLast season, the Miami Dolphins needed more than a little help at running back. Their top rusher, Lamar Miller, gained just 709 yards on 177 attempts (4.0 YPC) and scored two touchdowns. His backup, Daniel Thomas, wasn’t too great either, rushing for 406 yards on 109 attempts for a dismal 3.7 YPC. And Thomas was a second-round pick in 2011.

Given that Miami hasn’t found the running back of their dreams through the Draft, they decided to reach out in free agency this time around. The Dolphins signed Moreno to a 1-year, $3 million deal in hopes that he can provide some of the same offensive punch that he offered the Denver Broncos last year.

Off to a Bad Start

Taking hand-offs from Peyton Manning, Moreno managed to gain 1,038 yards, 10 rushing TD’s and catch 60 passes for another 548 yards and three touchdowns. That said, there is some hype surrounding Moreno as he takes his talents to South Beach. But judging from OTAs, he’s not really living up to the hype.

As the Miami Herald reported, the six-year veteran has struggled with conditioning and pass catching. Here’s a look at what the Herald wrote:

Knowshon Moreno continues to work at least partly with the second team, with Lamar Miller taking a lot of first team snaps. Moreno dropped a pass today and Joe Philbin conceded that his conditioning could be better.

Herald reporter Armando Salguero also tweeted that, “Knowshon Moreno looks a little thick around the belly.”

Should We expect a Turnaround?

Obviously the Dolphins aren’t paying Moreno what could amount to $3 million just to be a second-stringer. So he’s going to continue getting chances over the next few months to prove his worth. Plus they’ve already had two full seasons to evaluate Miller, and the organization isn’t convinced that he’s their back of the future.

But it’s definitely not a good sign that Moreno is playing with the second team right now. Moreover, it doesn’t make a good impression on your new coach when you show up to OTAs out of shape. However, the real season hasn’t even come close to starting. So Moreno still has plenty of time to change his conditioning around and show that he’s capable of starting for Miami.

2014 Super Bowl Outcome Likely to change Future of NFL Teams

cliff-avril-seattleIn a day and age where NFL teams desperately reach for the next great quarterback while ignoring the rest of their roster, the Seattle Seahawks are an anomaly. Their GM, Joe Schneider, in collaboration with head coach Pete Carroll, took no shortcuts en route to transforming a middling team with no identity into the powerhouse that destroyed Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The league definitely took notice of this spectacle, as Seattle’s tall, lengthy corners, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, held the Broncos’ star-studded receiving corp in check. The league saw safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas make crushing hits whenever Peyton Manning did find his receivers for mostly harmless chunks of yards. They watched as Seattle’s pass rushers, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Red Bryant, completely took one of history’s greatest quarterbacks out of his comfort zone. They witnessed the Seahawks’ offensive stars, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, make huge plays whenever they were needed. And now, the league is going to act on what they saw in the 2014 Super Bowl.

You can count on a dozen or more teams working to build a roster that’s more akin to Seattle. And this means that defensive players will gain a little more value this offseason. Greg Hardy, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are all set to make far more money this summer thanks to the Seattle Seahawks.

richard-sherman-seattleTeams have already been gravitating towards quarterbacks who can throw on the run. However, guys like Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater gain even more value in the draft after Wilson helped lead Seattle to a championship. Furthermore, the prototypical height requirement of 6’3″ or taller is diminished because of the 5’11” Wilson.

Running back committees have almost become automatic in this day and age. But when looking at the success Seattle had with a bruising, workhorse back like Lynch and a competent backup in Robert Turbin, getting somebody who can carry the load will be of extreme importance.

The Seahawks have definitely created the template here. And multiple teams will now be hoping to emulate Seattle’s roster. Obviously some organizations will fail badly at doing so. Others might achieve the success of San Francisco and Carolina, which are both very similar to Seattle. But will anybody be able to reach the heights that the Seahawks did this year? Or will it be the team from the Pacific Northwest repeating again as champs? You can bet that this will be a busy offseason as teams try to prevent the latter from happening again.

2014 Super Bowl Betting Prediction

peyton-manningEarly into the 2013-14 NFL season, many analysts tabbed the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks to meet in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of course, we all know how these early-season predictions can quickly be derailed through the lengthy grind of an NFL season. But in this case, the best two teams will be battling each other for the Lombardi Trophy. Now, the big question is which of these squads has the upper hand as we head towards the February 2nd showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Both teams finished with a 13-3 record, which tied for the league’s best record. You could make an argument for either team playing in the league’s toughest conference. In the AFC West, Denver twice played playoff-bound clubs in Kansas City and San Diego. Seattle, meanwhile, played their NFC West division rival San Francisco twice in the regular season and in the NFC Championship game. They also played a 10-win team in Arizona two times during the season.

So there’s not much that can be learned from either team’s regular season record or division. Does either team have much experience in the big game? Not really. It’s been 15 years since the Broncos last made it to the Super Bowl. In 1999, John Elway led Denver to a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, marking their second straight Lombardi Trophy. Seattle’s lone Super Bowl was in 2006, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are no holdovers from this team to teach the current Seahawks what to expect in the world’s biggest football game.

If there’s any separation to be found, it’s in what the Broncos and Seahawks do best. For Denver, this means scoring points, which they did at a record pace after breaking the all-time points-per-game mark with 37.9 PPG, tallying 6 different games where they topped 40 points. Peyton Manning made it look easy as he set some history of his own by throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 TD’s. It certainly doesn’t hurt his cause that he has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker to throw the ball to.

russell-wilsonSeattle did their damage on defense by holding opponents to a league-best 14.4 PPG. They were especially effective against quarterbacks after holding signal callers to a meager 172 passing yards per game. Their offense is pretty solid too, led by second-year QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch.

But make no mistake about it, the attention will all be on how Peyton and his receivers deal with CB Richard Sherman and the vaunted Seattle pass defense/rush. Believe it or not, this is actually just the first time that the league’s number one passing attack will square off against the top pass defense.

Sherman summed up the challenge that his team will be facing by writing the following on his Sports Illustrated blog:

The Broncos stand in our way, and it’s a large obstacle. They’ve got the smartest quarterback in football and receivers who are large (mostly), explosive with the football and run great routes. Wes Welker is quick and elusive, Eric Decker is a great receiver with hands and speed, and Demaryius Thomas is as strong as they come. And Peyton knows how to get each of them in spots.

Sherman is easily one of the league’s cockiest and best players. So when he starts touting the weapons on Denver’s offense, you know they have to be good! Of course, Seattle is far from a pushover, and they’d be a Super Bowl favorite in many other years. But with Peyton playing in his third career Super Bowl and the Broncos coming off an easy 10-point win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, we like Denver in this one.

2014 Super Bowl Prediction: Denver 27, Seattle 20

GTBets.eu Line: Denver -2.5   Over/Under 47 (-110)

Vegas Line: Denver -2.5

NFL Power Rankings for Week 17 (Dec. 25, 2013)

peyton-manning-broncosThe 2013 NFL regular season is rolling to a close, but much of the playoff picture is still unclear heading into the final week. Not one NFC division title has been sewn up, while there are still four teams alive for the last AFC Wild Card spot. Fortunately, the jumbled playoff mess will be sorted out this weekend through wins, losses, and a series of tiebreakers that only a computer can keep track of.

1. Denver Broncos (12-3); beat Houston 37-13, moves up one spot – No surprise here as Denver sent Houston spiraling towards their 13th straight loss. The most meaningful news to come out of this game involved Peyton Manning breaking Tom Brady’s all-time record for touchdown passes in a season (50). Manning threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, the last of which was the record-breaking number 51.

2. Seattle Seahawks (12-3); lost to Arizona 17-10, drops one spot – It’s been a while, but Seattle finally lost at home. And it was an ugly loss marked by several turnovers. If Seattle is truly to compete for a Super Bowl title this year, Russell Wilson needs to step his game up. He has three TD’s, three INT’s, and has been sacked 10 times in the last three games.

3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4); beat Atlanta 34-24, retains same ranking – The last ever game at Candlestick Park was a good one! With Atlanta driving for a potential game-winning score, NaVorro Bowman intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and took it back 89 yards for a touchdown. With Michael Crabtree now back and playing well (5REC, 102YDS), the Niners are going to be a dangerous playoff team.

4. New England Patriots (11-4); beat Baltimore 41-7, moves up one spot – Wow! New England walks into a playoff-hungry team’s den, then spanks them by 34 points! The Pats have looked inconsistent at times, but everything was working last Sunday – from the defense to the running game (34 carries for 142 yards).

cam-newton5. Carolina Panthers (11-4); beat New Orleans 17-13, moves up two spots – Cam Newton’s maturity level has greatly improved this year, and it really showed on the game-winning. With just 23 seconds left, Newton had the poise to find Domenik Hixon in the end zone from 14 yards out. Aside from Newton’s late-game heroics, the defense should be commended since they intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4); lost to Indianapolis 23-7, drops two spots – We’d been commending Kansas City’s offense, up until now. They looked completely terrible at home against a mediocre Colts defense. Much of the problem can be attributed to the normally steady Alex Smith. He fumbled once and was picked off twice in this rough loss.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5); beat Minnesota 42-14, moves up one spot – Cincinnati remains perfect at home, thanks to 366 passing yards and 4 touchdowns from Andy Dalton. Oh, and Vincent Rey returning an interception 25 yards for a TD didn’t hurt either. The Bengals are now headed for their third straight playoff appearance.

8. Arizona Cardinals (10-5); beat Seattle 17-10, moves up one spot – You’ve got to hand it to Arizona, walking into Seattle’s home territory and actually coming out with a win. Of course, this weekend won’t be much easier because they have to beat San Francisco to keep their playoff hopes alive. We can only imagine the disappointment if the Cardinals win 11 games, yet fail to make the postseason.

9. Indianapolis Colts (10-5); beat Kansas City 23-7, moves up one spot – After a mid-season slump, the Colts are back to playing some good football. They’ve won three straight games and have held opponents to 10 points over the past two weeks. Granted, one of those opponents was Houston, but still…

10. New Orleans (10-5); lost to Carolina 17-13, drops four spots – It’s highly likely that the Saints will beat Tampa Bay at home and grab the final playoff NFC spot over Arizona. Even still, there are some pressing questions here – namely how New Orleans plays on the road. Their record away from the Superdome is only 3-5, and if Carolina wins, every postseason game the Saints play will be on the road.

lesean-mccoy11. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6); beat Chicago 54-11, retains same ranking – The Eagles deserve to move up after demolishing the Bears. But there’s not much room in the top 10 right now. Regardless, their running game was a thing of beauty as they racked up 289 rushing yards and 3 TD’s. LeSean McCoy led the way with 133 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, while Bryce Brown added 118 yards and a TD on just nine carries.

12. Dallas Cowboys (8-7); beat Washington 24-23, moves up three spots – Tony Romo led a dramatic, comeback victory against the Redskins. Unfortunately, his status for this week’s game against Philadelphia is up in the air because of a back injury. This is very bad news too because, for the second year in a row, Dallas is playing for the NFC East title in the last week of the regular season.

13. San Diego Chargers (8-7); beat Oakland 26-13, moves up three spots – The Chargers keep winning and staying in the playoff race. This time, it was Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead leading the way after combining for 151 rushing yards. Now they have to beat Kansas City again, and hope that the Ravens and Dolphins lose this weekend to reach the playoffs.

14. Baltimore Ravens (8-7); lost to New England 41-7, drops two spots – With a chance to further cement their chances of grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot, Baltimore got embarrassed at home. Not only was their offense completely ineffective, but they also let New England run wild on them. Now they must win in Cincinnati, where the Bengals haven’t lost yet.

15. Miami Dolphins (8-7); lost to Buffalo 19-0, drops two spots – This game all came down to the rushing attacks, with Buffalo obliterating Miami. The Bills gained 203 rushing yards on 51 carries while the Dolphins tallied just 14 yards on 12 carries. Now in a tie with Baltimore for the final playoff spot, Miami is going to need some help to reach the postseason.

jay-cutler-injury16. Chicago Bears (8-7); lost to Philadelphia 54-11, drops two spots – This is the third team in a row on this list that blew a golden opportunity last weekend. Chicago could have wrapped up the NFC North division with a victory over Philly. While this was no easy task, they not only lost, but got completely embarrassed. It looks like Jay Cutler will be back in the saddle in the Bears’ all-important game against Green Bay.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8); beat Green Bay 38-31, moves up two spots – It’s amazing that Pittsburgh is even in the playoff picture this week, given that they started out 0-4. It’s interesting to think about what may have been if rookie RB Le’Veon Bell hadn’t missed several games to start the year.

18. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1); lost to Pittsburgh 38-31, drops one spot – There’s talk that Aaron Rodgers might return for the final regular season game. And this would be a huge lift since Green Bay can still win the NFC North by beating Chicago. But on a down note, they’ll probably be without Clay Matthews and Eddie Lacy.

19. St. Louis Rams (7-8); beat Tampa Bay 23-13, moves up one spot – St. Louis continues to improve and offer hope for next year. It looks like they’ve definitely found a star running back in Zac Stacy, who again had a big day with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown.

20. New York Jets (7-8); beat Cleveland 24-13, moves up one spot – Geno Smith had his first game with two touchdown passes since October. The embattled rookie also iced the game with a touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately this win won’t save Rex Ryan’s job, who already informed his team that he’s gone after this year.

21. New York Giants (6-9); beat Detroit 23-20 (OT), moves up one spot – The Giants tried to give this game away, with Eli Manning throwing an interception towards the end of regulation, and Andre Brown fumbling on the opening possession of overtime. But they were able to hold the Lions and allow Josh Brown to kick a game-winning 45-yard field goal.

22. Detroit Lions (7-8); lost to New York Giants 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – The Lions’ miserable slide continues and they’re now officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Detroit fans grew angry when coach Jim Schwartz elected to run out the clock in regulation, despite having two timeouts left and 23 seconds. With the Lions on their own 25, it’s not entirely ridiculous that Schwartz decided to play conservatively. However, he made things worse by yelling something back at the crowd when they were booing.

23. Tennessee Titans (6-9); beat Jacksonville 20-16, retains same ranking – Tennessee finally stopped a three-game slide. Nate Washington had a huge game as he caught 6 passes for 117 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown from 30 yards out.

cj-spiller24. Buffalo Bills (6-9); beat Miami 19-0, moves up two spots – As a team with nothing really left to play for, Buffalo definitely gave a nice effort in this contest. Their run game was especially killer to the Dolphins, with Fred Jackson racking up 111 yards and CJ Spiller adding 77 yards.

25. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1); lost to Cincinnati 42-14, drops one spot – Adrian Peterson returned from a foot injury suffered last week, but it really didn’t matter. Matt Cassel suddenly remembered that he’s Matt Cassel, completing 13-of-27 passes for 114 yards, 1 TD, and 3 interceptions.

26. Atlanta Falcons (4-11); lost to San Francisco 34-24, drops one spot – Overall, this is definitely a year to forget for Roddy White and the Falcons. But he at least finished the season strong, catching 35 passes for 411 yards over the past four games.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11); lost to Tennessee 20-16, retains same ranking – Jacksonville was actually in a position to take the lead late in this game, but Maurice Jones-Drew got stuffed on a fourth-and-1 run with 5:21 left.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11); lost to St. Louis 23-13, retains same ranking – The Buccaneers pass protection was bad, as they gave up seven sacks to the Rams. This fact alone made it very difficult for QB Mike Glennon to move the Bucs downfield.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-11); lost to New York Jets 24-13, retains same ranking – Cleveland has now lost six straight games, and they also lost star tight end Jordan Cameron to a concussion in this game.

30. Oakland Raiders (4-11); lost to Kansas City 56-31, retains same ranking – The latest controversy to emerge from Oakland involves Terrelle Pryor’s agent saying that the decision to start him in the finale is a conspiracy. The logic is that Allen wants Pryor to fail against Denver, thus making it look like starting Matt McGloin for the past six games was a good decision. Maybe this isn’t quite so far-fetched, but the fact that Pryor’s agent aired it publicly is baffling.

31. Washington Redskins (3-12); lost to Dallas 24-23, retains same ranking – Pierre Garcon continues to have a monster season, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in this game. For the season, he has 107 catches for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns.

32. Houston Texans (2-13); lost to Denver 37-13, retains same ranking – The depleted Texans dropped their 13th game in a row, and they’ll try for a win one last time at Tennessee.

4 NFL Playoff Spots up for Grabs in Week 17

drew-breesLast weekend saw a few teams sew up NFL playoff spots and/or division titles. The Denver Broncos (12-3) are looking the best now since they clinched both the AFC West title along with a first-round playoff bye. Of course, this weekend’s game against Oakland is by no means a rest-your-starters situation because Denver must win to lock up home field advantage.

And why is this the case? Because the AFC East champion New England Patriots (11-4) hold the tiebreaker over the Broncos. If they can beat the Bills at home and Denver loses against Oakland, they’ll grab home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. However, if New England loses, they could be out of a first-round bye.

Both the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) and Indianapolis Colts (10-5) have a chance at unseating New England for the second first-round bye. Cincinnati, which clinched the AFC North, has to beat a playoff-desperate Baltimore team and have New England lose. Indianapolis needs to beat the Jaguars, plus have both Cincy and New England lose.

Rounding out the five AFC teams that have already secured a postseason spot is the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4). They have no chance of winning the AFC West (swept by Denver), and are locked in as the AFC’s number five seed. So if they feel like it, Kansas City could rest their starters against San Diego.

The NFC picture is a lot murkier at the top. Only three teams have clinched playoff berths, and nobody has wrapped up a first-round bye or division title. So far, we only know that the Seattle Seahawks (12-3), Carolina Panthers (11-4) and San Francisco 49ers (11-4) are assured of a postseason bid.

russell-wilsonSeattle is in the driver’s seat of NFC home field advantage, but they must beat the Rams to secure this edge. If they lose, everything opens up at the top because Carolina could gain NFC home field advantage if they beat the Falcons, the Niners win at Arizona, and Seattle loses against St. Louis. For San Francisco to grab home field advantage and unseat Seattle for the NFC West title, they must win, have Seattle lose, and have Carolina lose or tie.

What we’ve discussed so far only covers the teams that are guaranteed a playoff spot. There are four remaining postseason bids left, which we’ll discuss below.

Last AFC Wild Card Spot – Four teams are still alive for the last AFC Wild Card berth. Due to a myriad of tiebreakers, all of these teams need help in making the postseason, and you can check out the scenarios here. Baltimore holds a tiebreaker over Miami (current sixth seed), but San Diego holds the tiebreaker over Baltimore, and Miami holds the tiebreaker over San Diego. In short, it’ll be interesting to see how this playoff-hunting triangle plays out. As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, well, they need all three of the aforementioned teams to lose, plus a victory this weekend.

karlos-dansby-interceptionLast NFC Wild Card Spot – The final NFC Wild Card slot is a much simpler matter because only the Saints and Cardinals are chasing after it. Assuming New Orleans wins against Tampa Bay, they are in. But if they lose, Arizona makes the playoffs with a victory over San Francisco.

NFC East Title – The Dallas Cowboys got a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Washington to set up a huge game this weekend. Now, they’ll play the Philadelphia Eagles at home for the NFC East crown. The winner goes to the playoffs and grabs home field in the first round, while the loser will be watching on TV next week.

NFC North Title – Just like the East, this is another win-or-you’re-out scenario. Chicago plays Green Bay at home, with the victor grabbing the North title and a playoff spot.

NFC South Title – This one is between Carolina and New Orleans. If Carolina wins, they capture the South title. But if they lose and New Orleans wins, the latter clinches the South and a playoff bid.

NFC West Title – Seattle must win to secure themselves the West title. However, if they lose, then San Francisco could step in and take the West crown with a victory over Arizona.