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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Worst NFL Draft Picks since 2000

jamarcus-russellThe 2013 NFL Draft is set to begin tomorrow, on April 25th, and 32 teams will be looking to find some gems. Of course, this might be a little difficult because the 2013 Draft class isn’t expected to feature many superstars. In fact, this week’s draft could be downright bad as an anonymous executive told the following:

Worst draft in past 10 years or longer. When we look back at this draft in five or 10 years we might view it as one of the worst we’ve seen in some time. There will be 13-15 players picked in the first round that are true first-rounders. That’s a fairly low number.

This NFL exec isn’t the only person who’s questioning the 2013 NFL Draft. John Elway, who now serves as the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations, bluntly said “It’s not top-heavy.”

With what many perceive to be a weak draft class, there figure to be plenty of duds picked this week. But hopefully, none of them live up to the 10 worst drafts picks since 2000, which you can see below.

10. Peter Warrick, WR Cincinnati Bengals – 4th Pick in 2000 Draft

peter-warrickAfter an outstanding college career in which he caught a record 32 touchdowns at Florida State and achieved All-American honors twice, Warrick seemed like he could be a pretty dynamic pro player. However, the smallish 5’11” receiver never gained more than 667 receiving yards in his first four seasons.

Warrick finally had a solid year in 2004, when he caught 79 passes for 819 yards, rushed for 143 yards, and scored seven touchdowns. But he was injured for most of the 2004 season and watched seventh-round pick T.J. Houshmandzadeh take over his spot. Warrick was released by the Bengals in 2005, had a short stint with the Seahawks after that, then bounced around the CFL and Arena League.

9. Robert Gallery, OT Oakland Raiders – 2nd Pick in 2004 Draft

Robert GalleryComing out of Iowa, Gallery was the ideal left tackle size at 6’7″, 325 pounds. This being said, he was expected to be a star in the NFL who could follow in the same vein as five-time All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace. However, Gallery never quite lived up to these expectations.

He was moved from left, to right, and back to left tackle in his first three years. 2006 was especially a disaster because Gallery gave up 10.5 sacks in just 10 games. By 2007, he found his calling at left guard; however, you don’t draft left guards with the second overall pick. This is especially bad when you consider the talented players that Gallery was taken over, including Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, DeAngelo Hall and Ben Roethlisberger.

8. Courtney Brown, DE Cleveland Browns – 1st Pick in 2000 NFL Draft

courtney-brownYou can’t exactly fault Cleveland for taking Brown with the first overall pick in 2000. Not only did he rack up 33 sacks and 70 tackles for losses at Penn State, but Brown also ran a 4.52 forty-yard dash, had a 37-inch vertical, and benched 225 pounds 26 times. Add in the fact that Brown was 6’4″, 285 pounds, and you have the perfect defensive end.

But size and combine performances don’t always equal success, which turned out to be the case with Brown. He had a solid rookie season with 70 tackles and 4.5 sacks. But injuries started coming in 2002 and drastically cut down the South Carolina native’s time on the field. When Brown retired in 2006, he had just 19 sacks over a five-year career.

7. Aaron Maybin, LB Buffalo Bills – 11th Pick in 2009 Draft

aaron-maybinSome people might think it’s unfair to put Maybin on this list because he was only drafted four years ago and even had a solid year in 2011 – recording 6 sacks for the New York Jets. However, this doesn’t erase three other years in which Maybin was almost nonexistent on his teams.

After the Bills drafted Maybin 11th overall out of Penn State, he responded by pitching in just 18 tackles and 0 sacks. The next year was even worse since the 6’4″ linebacker recorded just six tackles in 11 games. Buffalo simply scratched Maybin from several contests, despite him being healthy. Most recently, the Jets released him after he made only one tackle in 2012.

6. R Jay Soward, WR Jacksonville Jaguars – 29th Pick in 2000 Draft

r-jay-sowardThe 2000 NFL Draft was certainly a big one for busts since Soward is the third player from 2000 to make this list. The California native was so talented that, despite scoring 32 touchdowns during his career at USC, he fell short of expectations. The Jaguars were willing to spend their first round pick on the troubled wide receiver based on his potential alone.

However, this potential never materialized because he was frequently late to team meetings, violated the league’s substance abuse policy several times, and was arrested for threatening police after being pulled over. Soward was suspended by the league, and the Jaguars released the wideout after he turned in 14 catches for 108 yards in one year. These would be Soward’s only NFL stats because he never played in the league again.

5. Matt Leinart, QB Arizona Cardinals – 10th Pick in 2006 Draft

Matt LeinartFew college players ever had as storied of a career as Matt Leinart. He compiled a 37-2 record as the starting quarterback for USC, won two national championships, and earned the Heisman Trophy in his junior year. Based on his impressive collegiate resume and size (6’5″, 225 pounds), Leinart was a top prospect going into the 2006 NFL Draft – despite concerns about his weak arm.

After being drafted by the Cardinals, Leinart had a lengthy holdout, which lasted up until preseason games. But the holdout did end, with the rookie picking up a 6-year, $51 million contract. Leinart’s lucky that he got a fortune upfront because he certainly wasn’t worth the money. He started just 13 games in four seasons for the Cards and eventually lost his job to Kurt Warner.

4. Mike WIlliams, WR Detroit Lions – 10th Pick in 2005 Draft

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit LionsWilliams has never exactly lit the league on fire, with 127 catches, 1,526 yards, and 5 touchdowns in seven seasons. Of course, Williams career didn’t get off to a very good start when he left USC after his sophomore year and hired an agent, thinking he was draft eligible because Maurice Clarett successfully challenged eligibility rules. However, a federal judge overturned the ruling, which meant both Clarett and Williams had to sit out the 2004 season.

When the 6’5″ receiver was finally draft eligible, he was taken by the Detroit Lions in a very questionable move. Detroit had already spent first round picks on Charles Rodgers (2003) and Roy Williams (2004) the previous two years, and overloaded on wideouts when they scooped up Williams. But then again, foolish moves like this were a staple of the Matt Millen era in Detroit.

3. Vernon Gholston, DE New York Jets – 6th Pick in 2008 Draft

vernon-gholstonLike Courtney Brown, Gholston is another player who looked and worked out like a future Hall-of-Famer. The 6’3″, 260-pounder had an incredible bodybuilder physique, ran a 4.58 forty, had a 41-inch vertical leap and benched 37 reps at the combine. Gholston was also coming off of a season at Ohio State where he tallied a school record 14.5 sacks.

Unfortunately, neither his physical tools nor college production paid dividends for the New York Jets. Gholston failed to record a sack in three seasons with the Jets after being shuffled around from outside linebacker to a traditional defensive end role. He was eventually released in 2011 and has been waived by both the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams since.

2. Charles Rogers, WR Detroit Lions – 2nd Pick in 2003 Draft

charles-rogersRogers put together a spectacular college career at Michigan State, where he set an NCAA record with 13 consecutive games with a touchdown catch. The 6’3″, 220-pounder had enough highlight reel plays that the Lions decided he was worthy of the second overall pick. Things started out alright for Rogers since he caught 22 passes for 243 yards and three TD’s in his first five games.

However, he’d soon break his clavicle in practice and go on injured reserve. Rogers suffered the same injury in 2004 and was granted permission to leave the team after being very distraught. He was suspended for four games after violating the league’s drug policy in 2005 and barely played much when he returned. The Lions cut him the following offseason, thus bringing an end to Rogers’ football career.

1. JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders – 1st Pick in 2007 Draft

jamarcus-russell-1It isn’t exactly original putting Russell here because just about every draft busts list ranks him number one. However, that’s a testament to just how big of a failure the LSU product was in his three-year stint with Oakland. And this is mind-boggling when you consider his 6’6″ frame and cannon arm.

After holding out until the first week of the regular season, Russell finally inked a deal worth $61 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed. This resulted in him only starting one game and playing four games total in his rookie season. His second year was fairly decent since he threw for 2,423 yards, 13 TD’s and 8 INT’s. However, Russell’s third season was a disaster as he threw for 1,287 yards, 3 TD’s, 11 INT’s and lost his starting job.

2010 would mark the end of his Raiders career as he showed up to the Oakland mini-camp weighing between 290-300 pounds. With five quarterbacks on the roster, Russell was an easy cut going into the regular season.