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.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 5 (Oct. 2nd, 2013)

alex-smith-kansas-cityWho would have thought coming into this season that after four weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs would be among the league’s unbeatens? Thanks to a stingy defense, the Chiefs have looked marvelous over the first four games. They’re in a truly elite class now since New England, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle are the only other undefeated teams. Now it’s time to sort out how they all rank, along with the rest of the league.

1. Denver Broncos (4-0); beat Philadelphia 52-20, retains same ranking – Another game, another blowout. Denver will face some tough tests eventually, but these tests will be few and far between. The only thing the Broncos see ahead of them right now is a title.

2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0); beat Houston 23-20 (OT), retains same ranking – The Seahawks looked dominated in the first half after falling behind Houston 20-3. But they showed the heart of a champion after storming back, thanks to a second-half shutout pitched by the defense. Whenever Russell Wilson breaks out, this team can truly compete with Denver.

3. New Orleans (4-0); beat Miami 38-17, retains same ranking – The Saints defense once again turned in an impressive defensive performance against a tough team. Although they keep the same spot, New Orleans did gain some ground on Seattle in our rankings.

4. New England Patriots (4-0); beat Atlanta 30-23, retains same ranking – To go into Atlanta and grab a win against a desperate Falcons team really shows something. Tom Brady has turned spare parts into gold in the early season. Just think what he’ll do with a healthy Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0); beat New York Giants 31-7, moves up 3 spots – The Chiefs just keep winning and rising. Aside from a blown coverage on Victor Cruz, this team thoroughly dominated the Giants and will be extremely tough to beat at Arrowhead.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2-2); beat St. Louis 35-11, moves up 3 spotsfrank-gore-san-franciscoFollowing two rough weeks against Seattle and Indianapolis, the Niners looked strong in St. Louis. Frank Gore finally had his first good game after racking up 153 yards and a TD on just 20 carries.

7. Chicago Bears (3-1); lost to Detroit 40-32, drops 2 spots – The Bears could’ve fallen further, but multiple top 10 teams lost this week. Jay Cutler made a nice fourth-quarter comeback after giving up four turnovers. But you have to worry about the defense, which was gashed by Reggie Bush.

8. Detroit Lions (3-1); beat Chicago 40-32, moves up 7 spots – The difference between having and not having Reggie Bush is tremendous for this team. He racked up 139 yards and a TD on only 18 carries. Detroit vs. Chicago on a neutral field would be a real nail-biter.

9. Miami Dolphins (3-1); lost to New Orleans 38-17, drops 2 spots – This is another team that could have tumbled a lot further. And they were largely noncompetitive on both sides of the ball against New Orleans. However, losing on the road to one of the NFL’s elite isn’t such an embarrassment.

10. Indianapolis Colts (3-1); beat Jacksonville 37-3, moves up 3 spots – No complaints with how they handled the Jaguars. The defense has looked rock solid for two straight weeks. And the offense is complete with Andrew Luck behind center and Trent Richardson running the ball.

11. Green Bay Packers (1-2); bye week, moves up 4 spots – It’s funny how good you can look just by not playing. The NFC North race should be hotly contested with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago all gunning for the title.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2); lost to Cleveland 17-6, drops 6 spots –  Nobody saw this one coming, especially when the Browns traded away Richardson two weeks ago. It’s an ugly loss for the Bengals, but they are still tied for first in the AFC North.

13. Houston Texans; lost to Seattle 23-20, drops 2 spots – The Texans couldn’t finish off the NFC’s top team while they had them on the ropes. Houston has the pieces to be good, they just need to put everything together.

14. Baltimore Ravens (2-2); lost to Buffalo 23-20, drops 4 spots – A bad joe-flaccoweekend for the AFC North as the defending Super Bowl champs lost to the Bills. This defense can’t continue to cover for the mistakes of Flacco, who threw a career-worst five interceptions.

15. Atlanta Falcons (1-3); lost to New England 30-23, drops 3 spots – After a very strong year in 2012, the Falcons just don’t look the same. The defense is mainly to blame, especially since they surrendered 30 points at home to a team that’s missing several key starters.

16. San Diego Chargers (2-2); beat Dallas 30-21, moves up 4 spots – Philip Rivers has truly re-emerged this year. His performance against the Cowboys, which included 401 yards and 3 touchdowns, is perfect evidence of this.

17. Tennessee Titans (3-1); beat New York Jets 38-13, retains same ranking – In any other situation, the Titans would be 4-5 spots higher and in playoff contention. But now that they’ve lost QB Jake Locker for “multiple weeks,” this team will be hard-pressed to continue doing well. A brutal three-game stretch against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco awaits.

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2); lost to San Diego 30-21, drops 2 spots – How bad is the NFC East if Dallas is the best team with a .500 record? Even if Dallas continues on the same trajectory, they’re going to win the division and grab a postseason bid.

19. Carolina Panthers (1-2); bye week, moves up 2 spots – Once off to a dismal 0-2 start, Carolina is coming off a bye week and into a friendly four-game stretch against Arizona, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. They could win all four of these contests before things get tough again.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2); beat Baltimore 23-20, moves up 5 spots – The Bills got a nice home win against the Ravens, but it took five interceptions to pull this one out. Will a banged-up Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller take its toll?

21. Cleveland Browns (2-2); beat Cincinnati 17-6, moves up 6 spotsbrian-hoyer-clevelandIt’s hard to know if the Browns are for real at this point. But Brian Hoyer, Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon have breathed new life into this team, which has them thinking about the playoffs.

22. Arizona Cardinals (2-2); beat Tampa Bay 13-10, moves up 1 spot – CB Patrick Peterson came alive in the second half, picking off two crucial passes to lead Arizona to a come-from-behind victory.

23. New York Jets (2-2); lost to Tennessee 38-13, drops 5 spots – The fact that New York is .500 at this point is already surprising. If only rookie Geno Smith could quit making careless mistakes, this team could really exceed expectations.

24. Washington Redskins (1-3); beat Oakland 24-14, moves up 2 spots – Things looked bleak for the Redskins when they were down 14-0 in the first quarter. However, they battled back and finally notched a win. Amazingly, they’re just one game out of the NFC East lead.

25. Minnesota Vikings (1-3); beat Pittsburgh 34-27, moves up 3 spots – Christian Ponder remains the starting quarterback, despite the fact that backup Matt Cassel led Minnesota to their only win. But how long will Ponder start if he continues losing?

26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3); lost to Denver 52-20, drops 7 spots – Nobody expected the Eagles to walk into Mile High and shut down the Broncos. But isn’t offense supposed to be Chip Kelly’s specialty?

27. St. Louis Rams (1-3); lost to San Francisco 35-11, drops 5 spots – The Rams started the season respectably, but have regressed in the last two blowout losses. However, they have an excellent shot at winning in Jacksonville this weekend.

28. New York Giants (0-4); lost to Kansas City 31-7, drops 4 spots – Few would’ve predicted that New York would be this bad in the early going. They’ll try to get their first win against a slumping Philly team.

29. Oakland Raiders (1-3); lost to Washington 24-14, moves up 1 spot – They lost, but move up because Terrelle Pryor returns this week. Oh, and if there was any inkling of Matt Flynn regaining his starting job, it ended Sunday.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops 1 spot – The falling cry of the Steelers this year has always been “At least their defense is good.” Well it turns out that this isn’t even true. There is some promise in rookie RB Le’Veon Bell though.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4); lost to Arizona 13-10, retains same ranking – Are the Buccaneers drafting a quarterback next year, or is rookie third-rounder Mike Glennon the future? If it’s the latter, he’s got to stop making stupid decisions like throwing towards Peterson late in a game.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4); lost to Indianapolis 37-3, retains same ranking – Is there any reason to believe this team can avoid going 0-16? We can’t think of one.