NFL Power Rankings for Week 16 (Dec. 17, 2013)

St Louis Rams v Seattle SeahawksLast week was not kind to the favorites, as league powerhouses like Denver, New Orleans and New England all lost. Two of these games involved desperate teams in San Diego and Miami trying to remain alive for a playoff spot. Speaking of which, the 2013 NFL Playoff picture is beginning to look a lot clearer, but there are still a few division races and Wild Card spots left to be decided. With just two weeks left in the regular season, we’re in for some exciting football!

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-2); beat New York Giants 23-0, moves up one spot – Seattle hasn’t put up the gaudy offensive numbers that Denver has this season. But they are a complete team, and it’s the chief reason why they have the league’s best record. It’s practically a given that Seattle will have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and they’re the only team that we see as a clear-cut Super Bowl participant.

2. Denver Broncos (11-3); lost to San Diego 27-20, drops one spot – It’s really hard to tell where Denver fits in when it comes to the posteason. They’ll now be deadlocked in a battle with Kansas City and New England for the AFC’s two first-round byes, and the Patriots hold a tiebreaker over them. It’ll be interesting to see what their defense does against elite teams, given that they couldn’t stop San Diego from marching downfield in a home game.

3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4); beat Tampa Bay 33-14, retains same ranking – It certainly doesn’t look like San Francisco can win the division title from Seattle at this point. So the Niners are going to have a tough road to the Super Bowl. But the way that they’ve been playing late in the season, it isn’t hard to see San Francisco winning a few big road games.

jamaal-charles4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3); beat Oakland 56-31, moves up two spots – Once thought to purely be a good defensive team, Kansas City keeps surprising people with their offensive weapons. The biggest weapon by far is Jamaal Charles, who made Oakland’s defense look horrible on screen passes. Charles caught eight passes for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns in this route.

5. New England Patriots (10-4); lost to Miami 24-20, drops one spot – The Patriots’ string of late-game comebacks finally came to a halt in this contest. They did get close, though, but Tom Brady’s fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by safety Michael Thomas. Even with the loss, New England still has a chance at home field advantage in the AFC.

6. New Orleans Saints (10-4); lost to St. Louis 27-16, drops one spot – This was definitely a surprising outcome as the Rams picked off three Drew Brees passes that eventually resulted in touchdowns. Brees hasn’t played his best football of late, but there’s no reason to panic. New Orleans still holds the second seed in the NFC, and they could go a long way towards securing this spot by beating Carolina.

7. Carolina Panthers (10-4); beat New York Jets 30-20, moves up one spot – The Panthers still have a shot at the NFC South crown, with this weekend’s game against New Orleans possibly being the deciding factor. At home and looking for revenge, we like Carolina in this one.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5); lost to Pittsburgh 30-20, drops one spot – Seen as many people’s dark horse team to win the Super Bowl, the Bengals looked far from champions in the first quarter – getting outscored 21-0 by the Steelers. It’s hard to tell how Cincinnati is going to come out every week. And this inconsistency is haunting them down the stretch.

9. Arizona Cardinals (9-5); beat Tennessee 37-34 (OT), moves up one spot – Arizona might be the best team to miss the playoffs this year. Of course, they play in the NFL’s toughest division (apologies to the AFC West), so it’d be understandable if they do miss the postseason. The Cardinals got some surprising help from their run game against Tennessee (36CAR, 145YDS, 2TD). It’ll be tough to pull off the same feat against Seattle and San Francisco in their last two games.

trent-richardson-colts10. Indianapolis Colts (9-5); beat Houston 25-3, moves up one spot – This was almost like an exhibition game for the Colts as they prepare for Kansas City. They’ve now won two straight after a mid-season slump that saw the Colts defense and run game exposed. Indy is back to using Trent Richardson at running back (19CAR, 64YDS). Will this continue?

11. Philadelphia Eagles (8-6); lost to Minnesota 48-30, drops two spots – Philadelphia blew a golden opportunity to take a two-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East. Nick Foles continued his amazing run with 428 passing yards, 3 TD’s and an interception. But it wasn’t enough as Philly’s D gave up 382 passing yards to Matt Cassel and three rushing TD’s to the unknown Matt Asiata.

12. Baltimore Ravens (8-6); beat Detroit 18-16, moves up two spots – Baltimore isn’t letting a difficult late-half schedule keep them out of the playoff race. Their defense looked strong on the road against a high-powered Lions team. They harassed Matt Stafford into three interceptions, and Justin Tucker added an incredible game-winning, 61-yard field goal. The Ravens are now in control of their playoff destiny, but that may not mean much with difficult remaining games against New England and Cincinnati (away).

13. Miami Dolphins (8-6); beat New England 24-20, moves up two spots – Ryan Tannehill looked pretty outstanding in this game as he threw for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Miami’s defense was able to do just enough to slow down Tom Brady and preserve the win. With remaining games against the Bills and Jets, it’s very possible that the Dolphins could leap-frop Baltimore for the final AFC playoff spot.

jay-cutler-bears14. Chicago Bears (8-6); beat Cleveland 38-31, moves up two spots – Jay Cutler looked every bit like he hadn’t played in a football game since Nov. 10th. However, he shook off this early rust and led the Bears to a comeback win over Cleveland. Cutler got some major help from Alshon Jeffrey, who jumped up to make an outstanding TD catch in double coverage.

15. Dallas Cowboys (7-7); lost to Green Bay 37-36, drops three spots – After playing an excellent game for 57 minutes, Tony Romo tossed two interceptions in the game’s final three minutes to let Green Bay steal this one. The Cowboys aren’t out of the playoff race yet, but if they don’t go to the postseason, they can look back at this one and remember why.

16. San Diego Chargers (7-7); beat Denver 27-20, moves up one spot – Few people saw San Diego grabbing road wins in Kansas City and Denver this season. But they’ve done what they had to in order to keep chasing a postseason bid. Ryan Matthews has experienced a career revival, highlighted by the 127 rushing yards and touchdown he put up against the Broncos.

17. Green Bay Packers (7-6-1); beat Dallas 37-36, moves up one spot – A couple of weeks ago, Green Bay looked like they were done for without Aaron Rodgers. But two wins later and they’re challenging for the NFC North crown. Rookie Eddie Lacy has really done a solid job of keeping the Packers alive, and he turned in 171 total yards and a TD in this comeback victory.

18. Detroit Lions (7-7); lost to Baltimore 18-16, drops five spots – Detroit fans aren’t happy after seeing their Lions lose four out of the past five games. Stafford’s three interceptions from this contest have spawned questions about whether he’s really Detroit’s QB of the future. As you can see, things are a mess in Michigan.

antonio-brown-steelers19. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8); beat Cincinnati 30-20, moves up three spots – After starting the year 0-4, Pittsburgh has played respectably, going 6-4 over the last 10 games. Antonio Brown really made a difference in this win as he scored two touchdowns in a 64-second span (catch and a punt return).

20. St. Louis Rams (6-8); beat New Orleans 27-16, moves up three spots – St. Louis forced some turnovers in this contest and got a big victory. Besides the turnovers, Zac Stacy’s 133 rushing yards were crucial as well.

21. New York Jets (6-8); lost to Carolina 30-20, drops two spots – Now eliminated from postseason contention, New York has a lot of questions to answer in the offseason. Will head coach Rex Ryan be back? Will Geno Smith be the starting QB again? It’s difficult to answer either of these puzzlers.

22. New York Giants (5-9); lost to Seattle 23-0, drops two spots – Things have gone from bad to worse for Eli Manning after he threw five interceptions in this game. By all means he should be back and starting again next year. But will the two-time Super Bowl champ cement his status as a franchise player, or have the Giants looking towards younger talent?

23. Tennessee Titans (5-9); lost to Arizona 37-34, drops two spots – What a collapse for the Titans, who, just two weeks ago, were playing a meaningful division game against the Colts. It looks like the bottom finally fell out and Tennessee will be in rebuilding mode next season.

24. Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1); beat Philadelphia 48-30, moves up one spot – It took nearly an entire season to do, but it seems like Minnesota has finally found a quarterback in Matt Cassel. Whether it remains this way next year is a complete mystery.

25. Atlanta Falcons (4-10); beat Washington 27-26, moves up three spots – Atlanta was the beneficiary of seven Washington turnovers, scoring 20 points off these opportunities. Steven Jackson had two rushing touchdowns in what’s been an otherwise dismal season for him.

ej-manuel26. Buffalo Bills (5-9); beat Jacksonville 27-20, moves up four spots – Sure a win over Jacksonville doesn’t normally warrant this big of a jump. But the Bills are the only team down this low to actually win. EJ Manuel was the star for Buffalo as he combined for three total touchdowns.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10); lost to Buffalo 27-20, drops three spots – Jacksonville fought hard amid all of their injuries. Jordan Todman (109YDS) did a good job of filling in for Maurice Jones-Drew, who’s out with a hamstring pull.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10); lost to San Francisco 33-14, drops two spots – Tampa Bay can begin their search for a new coaching staff in about two more weeks. Other than that, there’s nothing really exciting to say about this team.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-10); lost to Chicago 38-31, drops two spots – Once again, the Browns were leading a good team late, only to falter in the waning moments. They squandered a game where they got two defensive touchdowns.

30. Oakland Raiders (4-10); lost to Kansas City 56-31, drops two spots – If the Raiders were banking on Matt McGloin as their QB of the future, they might want to re-evaluate this decision after his four interceptions against KC.

31. Washington Redskins (3-11); lost to Atlanta 27-26, retains same ranking – Mike Shanahan’s odd Kirk Cousins experiment was met with mixed results. Cousins put up 381 yards and 3 TD’s, but also threw 3 picks as well.

32. Houston Texans (2-12); lost to Indianapolis 25-3, retains same ranking – Judging from the way they played against the Colts, it seems as if Houston has truly given up on the season.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 14 (Dec. 5th, 2013)

peyton-manning-chiefsLast week was characterized by a couple of very high-profile matchups between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, as well as the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. The Broncos proved their dominance of the AFC West by beating their division rivals on the road by a score of 35-28. Kansas City is still a lock for the playoffs, but the illusion of their defensive dominance is now gone.

As for the Saints and Seahawks, this one wasn’t even close as Seattle throttled the visiting team. Most believe that the Saints are nearly invincible inside of the Superdome. But they appeared very mortal while playing at CenturyLink Field. Here’s a look at how last week’s featured games will shake up the Week 14 NFL power rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (10-2); beat Kansas City 35-28, retains same ranking – The margin between Seattle and Denver is slim. But it’s hard to bump Peyton and company out of the top spot when they just beat a playoff-bound Chiefs for the second time this season. Eric Decker had the game of his life after reeling in four of Manning’s five touchdown passes.

2. Seattle Seahawks (11-1); beat New Orleans 34-7, retains same ranking – So much for that bolstered New Orleans defense… Russell Wilson looked like a 10-year veteran the way he picked apart the Saints defense to the tune of 310 passing yards and three touchdowns. Oh yea, and Seattle’s defense was pretty good too as they shut down one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

3. New England Patriots (9-3); beat Houston 34-31, moves up two spots – The Pats got off to a slow start against Houston. But they once again staged a big comeback on the strength of Tom Brady’s 371 yards and two touchdowns. On a side note, Stevan Ridley’s days as New England’s starting running back appear over.

colin-kaepernick4. San Francisco 49ers (8-4); beat St. Louis 23-13, moves up two spots – San Francisco ended St. Louis’ hot streak and took a big step forward in the race for NFC playoff positioning. The Niners, who began the year trying to feature Colin Kaepernick’s talents more, seem to be getting back to this approach now that they’ve got some wins under their belt.

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3); lost to Seattle 34-7, drops two spots – The Saints didn’t suddenly become a bad team just because they got blown out by a fellow NFC powerhouse. However, this loss does raise some questions about New Orleans’ ability to win big games away from home.

6. Carolina Panthers (9-3); beat Tampa Bay 27-6, moves up one spot – Nobody predicted this week’s game against New Orleans to be a battle for first place in the NFC South. But that’s exactly where we’re at after Carolina won a franchise-record eighth straight game. Cam Newton is playing the best football of his three-year career, and just threw for 263 yards, ran for 68 yards, and accounted for three TD’s against the Buccaneers.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3); lost to Denver 35-28, drops three spots – Alex Smith is really looking solid at QB after piling up 293 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, and three total TD’s. But what happened to that vaunted KC pass rush from earlier this year? Manning went virtually untouched for the second time these two teams faced.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4); beat San Diego 17-10, moves up one spot – Holding the Chargers to 10 points at home is no small feat. The Bengals supplemented their great defensive effort with a strong running game (164 yards on 38 carries).

9. Indianapolis Colts (8-4); beat Tennessee Titans 22-14, moves up one spot – The Colts put a halt to their massive struggles with a hard-fought victory over Tennessee. Their lack of a running game is disturbing and the Trent Richardson deal is officially a dud. But they still have a little bit of time to fix these issues before the postseason.

demarco-murray10. Dallas Cowboys (7-5); beat Oakland 31-24, moves up one spot – Dallas used a surprisingly effective two-back approach, with Lance Dunbar rushing for 82 yards on 12 carries and DeMarco Murray gaining 63 yards on 19 carries. Murray also got into the end zone three times against the soft Oakland D.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5); beat Arizona 24-21, moves up one spot – Philadelphia keeps pace with Dallas in the NFC West with a huge victory over Arizona. Is it time to anoint Nick Foles (237PYDS, 3TD) as one of the league’s top QB’s?

12. Detroit Lions (7-5); beat Green Bay 40-10, moves up one spot – The Lions absolutely terrorized Matt Flynn in the pocket and racked up seven sacks and a safety. Now, the challenge will be repeating this dominant performance against teams without Flynn under center.

13. Arizona Cardinals (7-5); lost to Philadelphia 24-21, drops five spots – The Cardinals don’t really deserve this free-fall after losing by three points on the road. But with everybody behind them winning and boasting a similar record, the margin for error is slim in this range.

14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6); beat Pittsburgh 22-20, moves up three spots – Like any true champion, the Ravens aren’t going down without a fight. They scraped by with five field goals, and dug in to stop a two-point conversion with 1:03 left.

15. Miami Dolphins (6-6); beat New York Jets 23-3, moves up three spots – You have to give Miami some credit for battling back to .500 with all of the controversy surrounding them. It now appears that they’re in a two-team race with Baltimore for the last AFC Wild Card spot.

adrian-peterson-rushing-record16. Chicago Bears (6-6); lost to Minnesota 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – Chicago blew a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Lions in the NFC North. Their defense once again got gashed by a running back, with Adrian Peterson rushing for 211 yards on 35 carries.

17. San Diego Chargers (5-7); lost to Cincinnati 17-10, drops two spots – After a dramatic 3-point victory at Kansas City last week, San Diego couldn’t keep the magic going at home against the Bengals. The offense was surprisingly ineffective, especially when they crossed the 50-yard-line, and failed to complete drive after drive.

18. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1); lost to Detroit 40-10, drops two spots – Aaron Rodgers may be back this week. But the Pack is also down one and a half games in the NFC North, which is probably too wide of a margin to make up.

19. New York Giants (5-7); beat Washington 24-17, moves up four spots – New York kept their slim postseason hopes alive thanks to four sacks from Justin Tucker. Andre Brown also added two touchdown runs, though he only gained 35 yards on 14 carries.

20. Tennessee Titans (5-7); lost to Indianapolis 22-14, retains same ranking – Although they lost, Tennessee is still just a game out of the AFC Wild Card race, and they hold all of the tiebreakers.

21. New York Jets (5-7); lost to Miami 23-3, drops two spots – New York is just playing terribly on offense right now. At least Rex Ryan finally had the nerve to bench Geno Smith after another awful outing (29PYDS, 1INT). Unfortunately, Matt Simms isn’t much better…

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7); lost to Baltimore 22-20, drops one spot – Not only did Mike Tomlin earn himself a big fine for stepping in the way of a Jacoby Jones’ 73-yard kickoff return, but he also may have costed Pittsburgh a draft pick. Not exactly the best way to build for the future.

zac-stacy23. St. Louis Rams (5-7); lost to San Francisco 23-13, drops one spot – St. Louis fought hard on the road against a superior team. Zac Stacy turned in a tough game against this loaded defense as he rushed for 78 yards on 19 carries. He’s definitely a good building block for the future.

24. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1); beat Chicago 23-20 (OT), moves up five spots – The teams from here on out are so bad that Minnesota leaps up five spots for grabbing a win against the Bears. Adrian Peterson finally looked like he did in the second half of last season, showing he has more than enough left in the tank.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9); beat Cleveland 32-28, moves up five spots – It’s finally time to consider the Jaguars a legitimate NFL team again. Chad Henne led a late comeback after finding Cecil Shorts in the end zone with 40 seconds remaining.

26. Cleveland Browns (4-8); lost to Jacksonville 32-28, drops two spots – As if it were possible, Cleveland is about to get a lot worse! Now both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden are hurt, leaving the Browns picking at the bottom of the barrel for a healthy QB.

27. Oakland Raiders (4-8); lost to Dallas 31-24, drops two spots – After some ups and downs this season, Oakland is having yet another bad season. Perhaps they’ve found a quarterback for next year in Matt McGloin, though.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9); lost to Carolina 27-6, drops two spots – At this point, it’s very difficult to see Greg Schaino keeping his job. So Tampa Bay will essentially go back to the drawing board this offseason.

29. Atlanta Falcons (3-9); beat Buffalo 34-31 (OT), moves up two spots – Atlanta finally got the type of all-around offensive production they’ve been looking for, with Matt Ryan throwing for 311 yards and 1 TD, and Steven Jackson rushing for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

30. Buffalo Bills (4-8); lost to Atlanta 34-31 (OT), drops three spots – The good news is that CJ Spiller (149RYDS, 1TD) finally looked like the back that Buffalo was expecting this year. The bad news is that it comes when this team’s season has already gone down the drain.

31. Washington Redskins (3-9); lost to New York Giants 24-17, drops three spots – Washington has now been eliminated from the postseason in 17 of the last 21 years. After this season’s disappointment, some wonder if Mike Shanahan will be around in 2014.

32. Houston Texans (2-10); lost to New England 34-31, retains same ranking – Another close call for Houston, another loss. The Texans haven’t won since September 15th and it’s questionable if that will change before 2013 ends.