2013 NFL Wild Card Predictions (Jan. 4-5)

wild-card-colts-chiefsThis weekend kicks off the most exciting time in every football season: the NFL Playoffs! This is especially the case if you plan on betting on the 2013 Wild Card matchups. Looking at GTBets‘ NFL Wild Card lines, three out of the four spreads are separated by 2.5 points or less. With such close matchups, it’s definitely worth doing some in-depth analysis on each game.

Kansas City (-110) at Indianapolis (-110) on Saturday (4:35pm, NBC)

We got a preview of this matchup two weeks ago, when the Colts dominated Kansas City by a score of 23-7. Given that this contest was at Arrowhead, you’d think that Indianapolis would roll at home. However, the Colts have been very inconsistent ever since losing Reggie Wayne, so it’s tough to tell how they’ll come out each week. Additionally, they’ve struggled to find a running game all year, which doesn’t bode well against KC’s awesome defense.

So what about the Chiefs? Well, they’ll go as far as Alex Smith can take them. He looked terrible against Indianapolis before, throwing for just 153 yards, 1 interception, and losing 2 fumbles. Overall though, Smith has been pretty consistent this season, which means he should play much better this time around. However, we don’t think that Smith, Jamaal Charles and the KC defense can do enough to prevent wunderkind Andrew Luck from winning at home.

Prediction: Indianapolis beats Kansas City 20-16

New Orleans (-100) at Philadelphia -2.5 (-120) on Saturday (8:00pm, NBC)

wild-card-eagles-saintsThe Saints looked like early-season favorites to come out of the NFC. However, they faltered down the stretch amid growing defensive and road concerns. Their defense is ranked just 21st on the road, which makes their 3-5 record away from the Superdome much more understandable. However, they do have Drew Brees which always counts for something.

But will Brees see the field enough to make a difference? Philadelphia boasts the NFL’s top rusher in LeSean McCoy (1,607 rushing yds) so they should be able to move the chains, grind the clock down, and keep Brees off the field. Add in the fact that McCoy will be opening things up for newly anointed superstar QB Nick Foles, and we definitely see this one going in Philly’s favor.

Prediction: Philadelphia beats New Orleans 34-20

San Diego (-110) at Cincinnati -6.5 (-110) on Sunday (1:00pm, CBS)

wild-card-chargers-bengalsSan Diego survived a nailbiter against Kansas City’s second string last week to slip into the playoffs. Now they face a much bigger challenge in trying to become the first team to win at Cincinnati all season. They’ll be aided on this seemingly impossible quest by a number of offensive weapons, including Philip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen.

But even if the Chargers are able to put some points up on Cincy, it won’t be enough. The Bengals have crushed opponents at Paul Brown Stadium en route to an 8-0 record. Their last five victories have been particularly dominating, with margins of 17, 28, 14, 21 and 40 points. Considering that Cincinnati already holds a road victory over San Diego this year, we don’t see any chance of the Chargers moving past the Wild Card round.

Prediction: Cincinnati beats San Diego 38-17

San Francisco -2.5 (-110) at Green Bay (-110) on Sunday (4:30pm, Fox)

wild-card-49ers-packersNotice that San Francisco is the only road favorite on GTBets’ NFL Wild Card lines this week. There’s good reason for this too. San Fran is on a six-game winning streak, and they came within a play or two of winning the Super Bowl last year. Plus, they should have no trouble running the ball on Green Bay’s defense with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

But the Packers won’t be total pushovers. Aaron Rodgers finally returned from injury last week and looked almost like his pre-injury self, throwing for 318 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Aside from Rodgers, Green Bay is also at home where they’ll get a big boost from sub-zero temperatures. However, we don’t see inclement weather stopping San Francisco from coming out of this one with a victory.

Prediction: San Francisco beats Green Bay 34-28

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.

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.

 

NFL Power Rankings for Week 13 (Nov. 28th, 2013)

drew-breesThis year is shaping up to feature one of the most exciting playoff races in NFL history. Now 12 and a half weeks into the season, the AFC Wild Card race is no clearer than it was in Week 1 – with five teams tied at 5-6, and three more teams still in the mix with a 4-7 record. Currently, Tennessee is at the top of the 5-6 heap for the sixth seed; but that could easily change over the next five games.

Divisional races don’t look much clearer since the NFC East, NFC North and AFC West titles are still up for grabs. Taking all of this into account, our job for the Week 13 NFL power rankings is a VERY difficult one! But here goes anyways…

1. Denver Broncos (9-2); lost to New England 34-31 (OT), retains same ranking – Denver easily looked like the NFL’s most dominant team against New England as they jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead. However, the Patriots came storming back and scored on their first five possessions of the second half. But provided this game was at Mile High, we think the Broncos would’ve walked away.

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-1); bye week, moves up one spot – With losses by the Broncos and Chiefs, Seattle suddenly finds themselves with the league’s best record. They’ll have to fight to keep this pretty 10-1 mark as the Saints come to town in Week 13.

3. New Orleans (9-2); beat Atlanta 17-13, moves up one spot – Road wins usually aren’t easy to come by, even against a two-win team. The Saints didn’t look their sharpest, but they did enough to get the job done. Now a huge road contest against Seattle looms ahead.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2); lost to San Diego 41-38, drops two spots – Nobody expected the Chiefs defense to give up 41 points to the Chargers at home. So this one was a definite shocker for a top-3 defense. But we do have to say that the Kansas City offense looked the best it has all year – especially Alex Smith, who threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in keeping pace with Philip Rivers (392YDS, 3TD).

tom-brady5. New England (8-3); beat Denver 34-31 (OT), moves up one spot – Tom Brady sparked a huge comeback as he threw all three of his TD’s in the second half. The Patriots got a little help in overtime, as Denver’s Tony Carter ran into Ray Allen’s punt, giving New England the ball at the Broncos’ 13-yard line. From here, it wasn’t difficult for Stephen Gostkowski to kick the game-winning field goal.

6. San Francisco 49ers (7-4); beat Washington 27-6, moves up one spot – The Niners’ vaunted running game wasn’t at the level it usually is (76 yards on 33 carries). But Colin Kaepernick made up for this with one of his best games after throwing for 235 yards, 3 TD’s and no interceptions.

7. Carolina Panthers (8-3); beat Miami 20-16, moves up two spots – Aside from the Chiefs, the Panthers have quietly become the NFL’s second-biggest surprise team. They’ve now won seven straight games and are looking like a playoff team for sure.

8. Arizona Cardinals (7-4); beat Indianapolis 40-11, moves up two spots – Yet another surprise team among our top 10, Arizona is quickly moving up the ranks. Their defense was particularly stout against the Colts, led by a Karlos Dansby 22-yard interception TD. Carson Palmer continues to make all the difference at quarterback, after throwing for 314 yards and two TD’s.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4); bye week, drops one spot – A road win against the Chargers would go a long way towards sewing up the AFC North title for Cincinnati. But San Diego is playing at a high level right now, so it won’t be easy.

karlos-dansby-interception10. Indianapolis Colts (7-4); lost to Arizona 40-11, drops five spots – The Colts continue their struggles with Reggie Wayne shelved for the season. A team that has road wins over Seattle and San Francisco, they’ve now been blown out by the Rams and Cardinals at home. This team should still win the AFC South, but that could change if they under perform yet again at home against Tennessee.

11. Dallas Cowboys (6-5); beat New York Giants 24-21, moves up two spots – Dallas finally cooled off New York and their four-game winning streak. Tony Romo (250YDS, 2TD) looked particularly good in leading a 14-play drive that set up the game-winning field goal.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5); bye week, moves up two spots – Nick Foles is riding the hot streak to end all hot streaks as he’s thrown 16 TD’s and no INT’s in the last four games. He’s going to need to continue being this good against a tough Cardinals defense.

13. Detroit Lions (6-5); lost to Tampa Bay 24-21, drops two spots – Matthew Stafford filled up the stat box in both good and bad ways after throwing for 297 yards, 3 TD’s and 4 INT’s. His last interception could be contributed to Calvin Johnson, though, as it went in and out of the star receiver’s hands on a potential game-winning drive.

14. Chicago Bears (6-5); lost to St. Louis 42-21, drops two spots – Nobody can seem to pull away in the NFC North as both the Bears and Lions failed to capitalize on great opportunities. In Chicago’s case, their run defense was atrocious as they gave up 258 rushing yards on just 29 attempts.

philip-rivers15. San Diego Chargers (5-6); beat Kansas City 41-38, moves up three spots – San Diego’s remaining schedule isn’t exactly the NFL’s easiest. But they still remain in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race thanks to a difficult win at KC. Their reward: hosting a tough Bengals team this week.

16. Green Bay Packers (5-5-1), tied Minnesota 26-26 (OT), drops one spot – After horrendous stints in Seattle and Oakland, Matt Flynn is back with a team where he can excel. The career backup came in for an ineffective Scott Tolzien and threw for 218 yards and a TD, helping Green Bay close a 16-point deficit. With Aaron Rodgers still out, Flynn will start against Detroit.

17. Baltimore Ravens (5-6); beat New York Jets 19-3, moves up two spots – Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones on a 66-yard touchdown throw, and that’s pretty much all Baltimore needed to dust off a struggling Jets team.

18. Miami Dolphins (5-6); lost to Carolina 20-16, drops one spot – Miami was dominated in the second half, as they were outscored 14-0. With a complete lack of a running game, the Dolphins may be one 5-6 team that’s not truly in the AFC Wild Card race.

19. New York Jets (5-6); lost to Baltimore 19-3, drops two spotsGeno Smith is playing awful right now as he’s thrown 7 INT’s and no TD’s in the last four games. With New York in the midst of a playoff race, you have to wonder how long he’ll remain the starter.

20. Tennessee Titans (5-6); beat Oakland 23-19; moves up two spots – Ryan Fitzpatrick played really well in this contest, as he threw for 320 yards, 2 TD’s and no turnovers. Most importantly, he threw a 10-yard touchdown to Kendall Wright with just 10 seconds remaining, which kept Tennessee very much alive in the playoff hunt.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6); beat Cleveland 27-11, moves up three spots – After starting the year 0-4, Pittsburgh has now made a miraculous comeback, winning 5 of their last 6 games. The Steelers ended Jason Campbell’s good run at quarterback, after giving him a head injury and forcing him out of the game.

benny-cunningham22. St. Louis Rams (5-6); beat Chicago 42-21, moves up three spots – Whether it’s Zac Stacy or Benny Cunnhingham running the ball, St. Louis has suddenly put together a very good running game. Of course, they’ll hope that Stacy is ready to go after he was forced out of the Chicago contest with a mild concussion.

23. New York Giants (4-7); lost to Dallas 24-21, drops two spots – New York has definitely played better over the past five weeks, after starting the year a miserable 0-6. However, they missed a big chance to beat a quality opponent at home.

24. Cleveland Browns (4-7); lost to Pittsburgh 27-11, drops four spots – Cleveland can’t seem to run or pass the ball, which really puts pressure on their solid defense. Now they’re back to Brandon Weeden at quarterback, who gets a fairly soft matchup at home against the Jaguars.

25. Oakland Raiders (4-7); lost to Tennessee 23-19, drops two spots – The Raiders really have to be disappointed with how they gave up a near-last-second touchdown pass to lose. If only Sebastian Janikowski hadn’t missed two late field goals…

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8); beat Detroit 24-21, moves up two spots – Is it too late to save Greg Schiano’s job? If Tampa Bay keeps winning, anything is possible.

27. Buffalo Bills (4-7); bye week, retains same ranking – Buffalo finally got a much-needed bye week. Now let’s see if CJ Spiller comes out fresher from his injuries and can live up to the preseason hype.

28. Washington Redkins (3-8); lost to San Francisco 27-6, drops two spots – Bad teams seem to find controversy throughout the season. Last week, it was RG III seemingly bashing the coaching staff; this week, it’s his dad causing a stir by coming into the Washington locker room right after the game.

29. Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1); tied Green Bay 26-26, moves up two spots – Minnesota really missed a chance to grab a win in Green Bay. But a tie is no doubt better than a loss.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9); beat Houston 13-6, moves up two spots – For the first time all year, Jacksonville moves out of the league cellar! A big reason for this is running blocking and MJD, who ran for 84 yards and a TD against Houston.

31. Atlanta Falcons (2-9); lost to New Orleans 17-13, drops one spot – Atlanta overachieved last season, and they certainly weren’t built for injuries this year. But at least the defense showed some life against an excellent New Orleans offense.

32. Houston Texans (2-9); lost to Jacksonville 13-6, drops three spots – A team that was built to win a championship this season, Houston has truly been the NFL’s biggest disappointment. And now, they lose to the league’s former worst team at home.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 12 (Nov. 20th, 2013)

peyton-manning-chiefsLast Sunday night marked the year’s most anticipated game as the Denver Broncos hosted the Kansas City Chiefs. The latter was trying to keep their perfect record alive while Denver wanted to assert their dominance as the league’s best team. Peyton Manning had a pretty solid day after racking up 323 yards and a touchdown, and his line held off KC’s vaunted defensive line the entire game. This proved to be the difference as the Broncos were in command of the contest, coasting to a 27-17 win. You can see the flip-flop this created in our Week 12 power rankings below.

1. Denver Broncos (9-1); beat Kansas City 27-17, moves up one spot – Denver may not have come close to their league-leading 41.2 PPG, but remember that they were facing a Chiefs defense which holds opponents to 12.8 PPG. Demaryius Thomas burnt the KC secondary for five catches and 121 receiving yards.

2. Kansas City (9-1); lost to Denver 27-17, drops one spot – The Chiefs don’t have to wait long for revenge because they face the Broncos in two weeks at Arrowhead. Alex Smith definitely kept pace with Manning after throwing for 230 yards and two TD’s, plus adding 52 rushing yards. However, Jamaal Charles (16CAR, 78RYDS) seems like he’s a little slower at this point in the season.

3. Seattle Seahawks (10-1); beat Minnesota 41-20, retains same ranking – This is about what everybody expected. Percy Harvin looks ready to contribute now after returning a kickoff 56 yards, setting up a Russell Wilson touchdown pass.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-3); beat San Francisco 23-20, retains same ranking – It was a hard-fought victory, but the Saints were able to down the Niners thanks to three fourth-quarter field goals by Garrett Hartley. The Saints defense continues to be vastly improved, as evidenced by how they held the tough San Francisco running game to 81 yards on 22 total carries.

5. Indianapolis Colts (7-3); beat Tennessee 30-27, moves up two spots – The Colts andrew-luckare now 8-0 coming off a loss under coach Chuck Pagano. It didn’t look good in the beginning, though, as the Titans went up 14-0 early on. However, Indy used three rushing touchdowns from Donald Brown (2) and Andrew Luck (1) to make a comeback.

6. New England Patriots (7-3); lost to Carolina 24-20, drops one spot – A controversial no-call marred the end of this game. Given that New England was on the road against a red-hot team, we can’t fault them too bad for losing this one.

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-4); lost to New Orleans 23-20, drops one spot – The same road-loss rule applies to San Francisco because it’s nearly impossible to win in the Superdome, no matter how good you are. However, it’s worth mentioning that the Niners offense looked a little anemic.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4); beat Cleveland 41-20, moves up one spot – The Bengals virtually assured themselves of winning the AFC North with this victory. Their defense/special teams stepped up big-time in light of a terrible start by Andy Dalton as they scored on a blocked punt and a fumble. The 31 points in the second quarter set a Cincy franchise record.

9. Carolina Panthers (7-3); beat New England 24-20, moves up one spot – Cam cam-newtonNewton is really starting to look like he did his rookie year – except this time he has a team behind him! The third-year QB is now a legitimate MVP candidate, while the Carolina defense has never looked better.

10. Arizona Cardinals (6-4); beat Jacksonville 27-14, moves up one spot – How do you win with 14 yards on 24 carries? Well for the Cardinals, it was a combination of good defense and 419 passing yards from Carson Palmer. The run game is a huge question mark moving forward, but Arizona keeps winning, so whatever…

11. Detroit Lions (6-4); lost to Pittsburgh 37-27, drops three spots – Detroit missed a chance to take command of the NFC North after blowing a second-half lead. Give credit to Pittsburgh, though, as they rebounded from a terrible second quarter and shut Detroit down the rest of the way.

12. Chicago Bears (6-4); beat Baltimore 23-20, moves up one spot – Many people, including ourselves, thought that Chicago was done when Jay Cutler went down with an injury a few games ago. But Josh McCown has stepped in and done admirably while keeping his team in playoff contention.

13. Dallas Cowboys (5-5); bye week, drops one spot – Dallas comes out of the bye week, suddenly finding themselves trailing the Eagles in the NFC East. Even their opponent this week, the New York Giants, is back in the thick of things thanks to a four-game win streak.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5); beat Washington 24-16, moves up five spots – My how quickly things change in the NFL. Once ripped for an awful stretch of offense, Philadelphia has been revitalized with Nick Foles under center. Sure Foles may not have the perfect speed to run Chip Kelly’s read option; however, it doesn’t matter when he keeps throwing touchdown after touchdown.

15. Green Bay Packers (5-5); lost to New York Giants 27-13, drops one spot – Scott Tolzien is certainly no Aaron Rodgers….maybe not even Seneca Wallace. That said, will the Packers be too far out of the NFC North race by the time Rodgers returns from his broken collarbone?

16. New York Jets (5-5); lost to Buffalo 37-14, drops one spot – Geno Smith played geno-smith-billsabsolutely terrible as the Bills’ pass rush forced him into three interceptions and a fumble. With the Jets in a muddled AFC Wild Card race, you wonder how long Geno will continue to start since New York needs wins now.

17. Miami Dolphins (5-5); beat San Diego 20-16, moves up four spots – Despite losing Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito to the bullying scandal, the Dolphins are still neck and neck with New York for the last AFC Wild Card spot. Miami relied on a bend-but-don’t-break defense to pull out this victory.

18. San Diego Chargers (4-6); lost to Miami 20-16, drops two spots – This will be a season of big regrets for the Chargers since they could’ve have easily been in the playoffs if a couple of plays here or there had gone their way. Last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins was a great indication of this as they missed several opportunities to win.

19. Baltimore Ravens (4-6); lost to Chicago 23-20 (OT), drops one spot – Every time Baltimore looks like they’ve got some momentum going, it gets deflated the next week. Of course, it was hard for them to get momentum of any kind going in Chicago, where high winds and monsoon-like rains delayed the game.

20. Cleveland Browns (4-6); lost to Cincinnati 41-20, drops three spots – Cleveland jumped out to a 13-0 lead after Joe Haden’s 29-yard interception TD. However, the bottom completely fell out in the second quarter as they allowed a 31-0 Bengals run.

21. New York Giants (4-6); beat Green Bay 27-13, moves up one spot – The NFL is about taking advantage of opportunities, and this is exactly what New York has done during their four-game winning streak. Beating a Scott Tolzien-led Packers squad was a good example of this. Now let’s see what they can do at home against a talented Dallas squad.

22. Tennessee Titans (4-6); lost to Indianapolis 30-27, drops one spot – Chris chris-johnsonJohnson had a big first quarter as he ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Titans fell flat after this and have now lost five out of their last six games.

23. Oakland Raiders (4-6); beat Houston 28-23, moves up one spot – Given that they’ve used three quarterbacks this season and are still the Raiders, Oakland shouldn’t be alive in the AFC playoff race. But then again, it seems like nobody wants that last Wild Card slot.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6); beat Detroit 37-27, moves up two spots – Ben Roethlisberger looked good while throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense made some great second-half adjustments.

25. St. Louis Rams (4-6); bye week, retains same ranking – The Rams have plenty of momentum coming off a bye after the way they handled Indianapolis on the road. Now they host a difficult matchup with the Bears.

26. Washington Redskins (3-7); lost to Philadelphia 24-16, drops three spots – Robert Griffin III’s comments about how predictable his team’s offense was certainly doesn’t bode well for a team that’s already had a tough season. But the sad part is, he’s right and the Eagles subpar defense took full advantage of this.

27. Buffalo Bills (4-6); beat New York Jets 37-14, moves up two spots – So much for that stingy New York defense. Buffalo had their way in this one after harassing Geno Smith into four turnovers – two of which were Jairus Byrd interceptions.

28. Tampa Bay (2-8); beat Atlanta 41-28, moves up two spots – If Tampa Bay were in the AFC, they’d be in the hunt for a postseason bid. All jokes aside, the Bucs have played quite well over the past three weeks.

29. Houston Texans (2-8); lost to Oakland 28-23, drops one spot – Nobody can really figure out Gary Kubiak’s decision to play Matt Schaub towards the end, even though Case Keenum wasn’t playing too badly. It may be harsh to say, given Kubiak’s mini-stroke a couple of weeks ago, but he’s almost assuredly gone after eight years in Houston.

30. Atlanta Falcons (2-8); lost to Tampa Bay 41-28, drops three spots – Atlanta played pretty lifelessly in the first three quarters, making it seem like they’ve given up. Tampa Bay called off the dogs in the fourth quarter, which allowed Atlanta to score 15 points and make this game look less horrid.

31. Minnesota Vikings (2-8); lost to Seattle 41-20, retains same ranking – After 129 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s from Christian Ponder, is the Josh Freeman experiment back on?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9); lost to Arizona 27-14, retains same ranking – Give credit to Jacksonville for obliterating the Cardinals’ running game and jumping out to a first-quarter lead. But they are still bad…