NFL Power Rankings Week 17, 2016

tom-brady-deflate-gateBoth the AFC and NFC playoff pictures are much clearer now. But there are still things that need to be sorted out, including the final Wild Card team in the NFC, and seeding in the AFC.

Let’s discuss this along with where teams rank heading into the final week of the regular season. Also, take a look at last week’s power rankings here.

1. Dallas Cowboys (13-2); beat Detroit 42-21, same spot – Even with the NFC’s No. 1 seed wrapped up, Dallas has no plans to rest starters Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.

2. New England Patriots (13-2); beat NY Jets 41-3, same spot – Despite being a game better than everybody else in the AFC, New England still needs a win or a Raiders loss to clinch the No. 1 seed.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5); beat Baltimore 31-27, up 1 spot – One of our Super Bowl favorites to start the year, Pittsburgh is playing like it now. A big reason why is Le’Veon Bell, who’s racked up almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games.

tyreek-hill-chiefs4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4); beat Denver 33-10, up 2 spots – Receiver Tyreek Hill has emerged as a dangerous threat to catch or run the ball. He’s helped make the Chiefs more than just a defensive team.

5. Oakland Raiders (12-3); beat Indianapolis 33-25, down 2 spots – While the Raiders can still gain the AFC’s top seed with a win and a New England loss, their Super Bowl odds took a huge hit after losing Derek Carr.

6. New York Giants (10-5); lost to Philadelphia 24-19, down 1 spot – New York is in the playoffs, but they would’ve liked to make it with a victory over their rivals.

7. Atlanta Falcons (10-5); beat Carolina 33-16, same spot – Atlanta wraps up the NFC South with a win over Carolina and Tampa Bay’s loss. This will be a tough team in the playoffs.

8. Green Bay Packers (9-6); beat Minnesota 38-25, same spot – Aaron Rodgers has played amazing over the last several weeks, throwing for another 347 yards and four touchdowns in this game.

jay-ajayi-dolphins9. Miami Dolphins (10-5); beat Buffalo 34-31, up 3 spots – Some wondered if Miami would even make the playoffs when Ryan Tannehill got injured. They’ve since won two straight games and have wrapped up a Wild Card slot. An additional note is that Jay Ajayi had his third 200-yard rushing performance of the season.

10. Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1); lost to Arizona 34-31, down 1 spot – Seattle secured the NFC West a while ago. But they struggled against rival Arizona this year, losing one game and tying another.

11. Washington Redskins (8-6-1); beat Chicago 41-21, up 4 spots – For Washington, the playoff picture is clear: beat the Giants and you’re in.

12. Detroit Lions (9-6); lost to Dallas 42-21, down 1 spot – Losing to the Cowboys puts Detroit in the difficult position of having to beat their division-rival Green Bay to win the NFC North and make the playoffs. Is anybody betting on the Lions here?

13. Houston Texans (9-6); beat Cincinnati 12-10, up 4 spots – Nobody sees Houston as the AFC favorites. But the Texans deserve some credit for winning the AFC South with subpar quarterback play.

14. Denver Broncos (8-7); lost to Kansas City 33-10, down 4 spots – Now out of the postseason hunt, the defending champions may give Paxton Lynch one more look.

15. Baltimore Ravens (8-7); lost to Pittsburgh 31-27, down 2 spots – No longer in the playoff race, Baltimore’s biggest story right now is whether Steve Smith will retire.

16. Tennessee Titans (8-7); lost to Jacksonville 38-17, down 2 spots – Despite the blowout loss to Jacksonville and Marcus Mariota getting injured, Tennessee can be proud of this season after winning just 3 games last year.

17. New Orleans Saints (7-8); beat Tampa Bay 31-24, up 5 spots – This season has to be considered an overall win for New Orleans, who weren’t expected to win this many games.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7); lost to New Orleans 31-24, down 2 spots – The loss to New Orleans all but eliminates Tampa Bay from making the playoffs. Their postseason odds are so long that they even need AFC teams to lose for strength-of-schedule purposes.

tyrod-taylor-bills19. Buffalo Bills (7-8); lost to Miami 34-31, down 1 spot – Many expected Rex Ryan to be fired, and he was. But we also find out that Tyrod Taylor will be benched for the finale. The reason why is because of a contract clause where he’s due $30.75 million if he gets injured.

20. Indianapolis Colts (7-8); lost to Oakland 33-25, down 1 spot – Will Chuck Pagano keep his job after this year? Everything is up for question heading into Indianapolis’ offseason.

21. Minnesota Vikings (7-8); lost to Green Bay 38-25, down 1 spot – A season that began with so much promise and an 5-0 record will end with a whimper, win or lose, against the Bears.

22. Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1); beat Seattle 34-31, up 3 spots – Arizona is the most-disappointing team from this season. We had them ranked No. 1 in our original power rankings, but they won’t even reach .500 this season. At least they got a victory over their division rivals last weekend.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (6-9); beat NY Giants 24-19, up 1 spot – The Eagles were able to snap a five-game losing streak with this victory.

24. Carolina Panthers (6-9); lost to Atlanta 33-16, down 3 spots – Carolina is right there with the Cardinals in terms of teams that expected much more from 2016.

25. Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1); lost to Houston 12-10, down 2 spots – Expected to fight with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the AFC North crown, Cincinnati was nowhere close to the team everybody expected.

26. San Diego Chargers (5-10); lost to Cleveland 20-17, same spot – We know he’s good, but does Melvin Gordon’s injury have this much impact?

matt-barkley-bears27. Chicago Bears (3-12); lost to Washington 41-21, same spot – Any thought of giving Matt Barkley a longer look next season ended with his five interceptions in this contest.

28. New York Jets (4-11); lost to New England 41-3, same spot – This score was the total opposite of the competitive game between the Jets and Patriots a few weeks ago. Seems that New York has mailed it in already.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12); beat Tennessee 38-17, up 1 spot – Doug Marrone may actually be considered for the Jacksonville job if he can win again.

30. San Francisco (2-13); beat L.A. Rams 22-21, up 1 spot – San Francisco may only have two wins, but they both came against L.A., making them the superior team.

31. LA Rams (4-11); lost to Seattle 24-3, same spot – What an embarrassing first season in Los Angeles for the Rams.

32. Cleveland Browns (1-14); beat San Diego 20-17, same spot – Given that Cleveland has no chance of winning in Pittsburgh next week, it’s good that they got their lone victory at home against San Diego.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 17 (Dec 25, 2014)

marshawn-lynch-vs-cardinals1. New England Patriots (12-3); beat NY Jets 17-16, retains same ranking – New England squeaked by the lowly Jets to grab homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

2. Seattle Seahawks (11-4); beat Arizona 35-6, moves up one spot – Seattle closes the gap quite a bit on New England in the power rankings, thanks to a dismantling of their division rivals.

3. Green Bay Packers (11-4); beat Tampa Bay 20-3, moves up one spot – Aaron Rodgers is back after a dismal performance against the Bills. He threw for 318 yards and a touchdown in this one.

4. Denver Broncos (11-4); lost to Cincinnati 37-28, drops two spots – This was definitely not Peyton Manning’s day as he tossed four interceptions and ended with a 24.1 QBR – his second lowest in Denver.

5. Detroit Lions (11-4); beat Chicago 20-14, moves up two spots – Even though Matthew Stafford threw two red-zone picks, the Lions were able to pull out this victory.

tony-romo-cowboys6. Dallas Cowboys (11-4); beat Indianapolis 42-7, moves up two spots – Dallas is finally going to the postseason under Jason Garrett. And they’ll be a dangerous team with the league’s leading rusher, and Tony Romo boasting the league’s best QBR.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5); beat Kansas City 20-12, moves up three spots – The Steelers are already in the playoffs, and they can still win the AFC North by beating the Bengals at home.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1); beat Denver 37-28, moves up three spots – Jeremy Hill has really established himself as one of the AFC’s best rushers, piling up 147 yards in this game – including 103 yards after contact.

9. Indianapolis Colts (10-5); lost to Dallas 42-7, drops four spots – Andrew Luck had a nightmare game, finishing with just 109 yards and a career-worst 11.2 QBR.

10. Arizona Cardinals (11-4); lost to Seattle 35-6, drops four spots – Arizona will be going to the postseason, but it doesn’t look very promising with Ryan Lindley at quarterback.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6); lost to Washington 27-24, drops two spots – The Eagles had their least-disciplined game in a pivotal contest, committing 13 penalties, missing two field goals and dropping four passes.

philip-rivers12. San Diego Chargers (9-6); beat San Francisco 38-35, moves up three spots – Despite throwing two picks in the first half, Philip Rivers finished with an outstanding game, compiling 356 passing yards and four TD’s.

13. Baltimore Ravens (9-6); lost to Houston 25-13, drops one spot – Baltimore’s playoff chances took a hit after allowing a Case Keenum-led Houston team to dominate them.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7); lost to Pittsburgh, drops one spot – Despite 311 passing yards from Alex Smith, the Chiefs still had difficulty finding the end zone. It didn’t help that Jamaal Charles gained just 29 rushing yards.

15. Buffalo Bills (8-7); lost to Oakland 26-24, drops one spot – Kyle Orton had a strong game with 329 passing yards and 3 TD’s, however, the defense couldn’t contain Derek Carr.

16. Miami Dolphins (8-7); beat Minnesota 37-35, moves up one spot – Ryan Tannehill is starting to establish himself as one of the league’s elite passers, finishing with 396 yards and 4 TD’s in this contest.

17. Houston Texans (8-7); beat Indianapolis 17-10, moves up one spot – The chants for J.J. Watt for MVP grow as the defensive end recorded his 54th sack, setting Houston’s franchise record.

18. San Francisco 49ers (7-8); lost to San Diego 38-35, drops two spots – Despite racking up over 300 rushing yards and controlling the ground, San Francisco somehow lost again.

19. Carolina Panthers (6-8-1); beat Cleveland 17-13, NR – Few people could have seen this one coming three weeks ago. Suddenly, Carolina is in a position to win their division and go to the playoffs.

20. Atlanta Falcons (6-9); beat New Orleans 30-14, NR – It wasn’t easy going into the Superdome and winning a contest to keep their division-crown hopes alive. But somehow, Atlanta made it look easy.

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.