5 NFL Offenses to fear in 2015

2015-nfl-playoffs-russell-wilsonThey say defense wins championships, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a great offense. This is especially the case in the NFL where, due to complex defensive schemes, points can be rather hard to come by. So what NFL offenses figure to give opposing defensive coordinators fits all season long? Let’s take a look at five offenses to be feared as we head into the 2015 NFL season.

5. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s bread and butter is typically their defense, which has been stellar over the past couple of seasons. However, they didn’t get to two straight Super Bowls by having a weak, anemic offense. QB Russell Wilson is one of the most-dangerous duel threats in the league, beating teams with both his arm and legs. Then there’s Marshawn Lynch, who is always good for several highlight-reel plays that involve trucking defenders en route to the end zone. Add new addition Jimmy Graham and you’ve got one highly explosive team that will be racking up some major points.

sam-bradford-eagles-14. Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly has a knack for developing excellent offensive teams, and this year’s version will be no different. In fact, it could be even better with Sam Bradford as the new quarterback of the Eagles. Bradford isn’t the only new face in town, though, with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews joining Darren Sproles in what should be a very dominant backfield. Philadelphia finished ninth in rushing last season (124.4 RYPG), but don’t be surprised if they’re number one this year.

3. Green Bay Packers

Last year was one of the best of Aaron Rodgers’ career as he threw for 4,381 yards, 38 TDs and 5 INTs, while generating a 112.2 QBR. With weapons like Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, it certainly won’t be difficult for a healthy Rodgers to replicate his numbers from last season. And once Eddie Lacy got going last year, he gave Green Bay a truly devastating all-around attack. The Packers led the league with 30.4 PPG and there’s no reason to think that they can’t do the same again in 2015.

ben-roethlisberger-ravens2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Traditionally a defensive team, the blue-collar town of Pittsburgh is learning to embrace what’s become an outstanding offense. And it’s not easy to see who’s leading this offense based on last year’s stats: Ben Roethlisberger (4,952 passing yards), Antonio Brown (1,698 receiving yards) and Le’Veon Bell (1,361 rushing yards). These totals equal 8,011 yards, which is the most by a three-player trio in league history. But Pittsburgh’s offensive prowess goes beyond just these three because receivers Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Auburn third-rounder Sammy Coates will also pile up stats.

1. Indianapolis Colts

The greatness of Andrew Luck shined through once again as he tallied 4,761 passing yards, 40 passing TDs and 16 INTs. And what’s amazing is that he didn’t really have much of a supporting run game to keep defenses honest. That should be solved going into this season, with Frank Gore joining the Colts. And the passing game will once again be excellent with T.Y. Hilton back, free-agent Andre Johnson, and first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett. With the most weapons that he’s ever had in his career, expect Luck to put up his best numbers yet in his 4th season.

New LeGarrette Blount Conspiracy surrounds Patriots

legarrette-blount-conspiracyAlthough Deflate-gate is far from a dead matter, it appears that the fallout from this scandal won’t affect the New England Patriots’ spot in Super Bowl XLIX. Regardless, it seems that the Patriots just can’t avoid the conspiracy theories as they head towards their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. And the latest potential scandal surrounding the team involves their running back, LeGarrette Blount.

For the first 11 games of the season, Blount played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and backed up Le’Veon Bell. He got 65 carries and totaled 266 yards and two rushing TD’s, before heading to the bus early during a game and later getting cut. At the time, it seemed like a career-destroying move and nobody would want to touch the 250-pound power runner this year. However, New England scooped Blount up and had him carrying the ball the following weekend.

Was it just coincidence that the Patriots needed a reliable first-string back at the same time that Blount wanted out of an unfavorable situation? Or is there more to the quick timing of New England’s late-season signing?

These were the type of questions that Blount was dodging during Tuesday’s media day in Arizona. In particular, here’s what he was asked and his responses (or lack thereof):

“Did you know you had a job with New England before you left Pittsburgh?”

Blount: Smiles without answering

“Why would you leave if you didn’t know in the back of your mind that they were waiting to call you?”

Blount: Smiles, laughs and says, “I don’t know nothing.”

legarrette-blount-patriots-2014If the Patriots organization, or someone around it, had contact with Blount prior to the signing, he’s obviously not telling anybody. But it’s clear that he’s happy going from Bell’s backup on a solid playoff team to one of the stars on New England’s Super Bowl squad.

There’s little doubt that Blount at least stayed in contact with his former Patriots teammates, including one-time starter Stevan Ridley, whose mid-October injury put him out of commission.

“I stayed close with a lot of guys,” Blount explained. “I stayed close with Ridley. I stayed close with Shane [Vereen]. I stayed close with all of my running backs. I stayed close with Devin [McCourty]. I stayed close with a lot of guys. Like I said, it’s a close-knit team. It’s really like a brotherhood. They supported me through everything that I’ve been through.”

However, Blount ultimately landed back in New England and it’s pretty clear that he’ll be a huge part of the gameplan next Monday night. And if you’re going to do some Super Bowl 49 betting, then you’ll definitely want to consider Blount’s involvement and how he balances out an attack that includes Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game. Will this, combined with Bill Belichick’s gameplan, be enough to topple the defending champion Seattle Seahawks? We’ll have to see when Super Bowl XLIX plays out in less than a week.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 1 (Sept. 4th, 2014)

seattle-seahawks-packers-2014With the preseason officially out of the way, the 2014 NFL regular season is set to kick off tonight. The Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Seattle is the favorite here, but the way that the Packers can score, there’s no telling how this game will go.

The same could be said of who’ll be accepting the Lombardi Trophy this year. Again, many people like the Seahawks, however, the 49ers, Broncos, Packers Patriots, Saints and others will all have something to say about this. So who’s our pick for the NFL’s best team as of now? You can see for yourself in our first NFL power rankings of 2014.

1. Seattle Seahawks – Yeah, this isn’t exactly original. But what reason do we have to doubt the champs since they return all of their key starters? QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch will once again be heading up the offense while shutdown-corner Richard Sherman is said to be more focused than ever. He’s going to need this focus since Seattle will have the unenviable target on their backs all season.

2. Denver Broncos – The Broncos may have been humiliated in last year’s Super Bowl, but they figure to be better on both sides of the ball. First off, the pass rush will be nastier with both LB Von Miller and DE DeMarcus Ware coming after the quarterback. And Montee Ball’s ascension provides an upgrade over last year’s starting running back, Knowshon Moreno.

colin-kaepernick3. San Francisco 49ers – LB Aldon Smith’s 9-game suspension is a big blow to the 49ers’ regular season. However, the rest of the San Francisco team is more than solid. And if Colin Kaepernick keeps up his strong play from last year – where he threw for 10 TD’s and one interception over the final six regular season games – the Niners will be completely fine without Smith.

4. New England Patriots – The offense will be even less reliant on Tom Brady this season with a talented group of ball carriers. Shane Vereen headlines the group with his dual abilities, while rookie James White, Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley add lots of depth.

5. New Orleans Saints – It will be strange not seeing Darren Sproles catching passes out of the backfield this year. But that could leave Pierre Thomas with an even bigger role. Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks got a lot of press this offseason. If he’s as good as the hype, then Drew Brees will have no trouble finding him.

6. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers missed seven games last year and Green Bay still made the postseason. Plus, Eddie Lacy got a chance to shine in his rookie season. Together, this pair forms one of the toughest QB-RB tandems in the league. Even in the opener against Seattle’s tough defense tonight, these two should work well off of each other.

nick-foles-eagles7. Philadelphia Eagles – It’s almost impossible to see Nick Foles duplicating 27 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions for a second straight year. But even though we expect this ratio to change, it’s hard to see him not being great once again in the weak NFC East. If receiver Jeremy Maclin can stay healthy, this has the potential to be the league’s best offense.

8. Cincinnati Bengals – You have to like Cincinnati’s chances of improving this year with Geno Atkins back. The All-Pro defensive tackle missed seven games last season and the defense was still stout. QB Andy Dalton got a big offseason deal. Will he prove that he’s worth it this year?

9. Indianapolis Colts – Much is made about the unsettled backfield in Indy, but having Andrew Luck under center guarantees the offense of remaining dangerous. Signing LB D’Qwell Jackson and DE Arthur Jones will bring much-needed help to a defense that gave up 125.1 rushing yards per game in 2013.

10. Chicago Bears – The Bears offense should have no trouble scoring points in their second year under coach Marc Trestman. But the defense will determine how far this team goes. Signing defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young definitely helps, as does getting linebackers D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs back from injury. But the results certainly didn’t show up in the third preseason game, when starters play the majority of snaps.

ryan-shazier-steelers11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Pittsburgh might finally have their traditional power running game back with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount heading up the backfield. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier will bring some nice explosiveness to a defensive unit that had aged far too much last season.

12. Carolina Panthers – Last year was a breakthrough season for the Panthers. But can they repeat that performance, or possibly do better? Every receiver from last season’s roster is gone, meaning Cam Newton will be meshing with a completely new unit. So far, rookie Kelvin Benjamin is looking like a pretty reliable target for Newton.

13. San Diego Chargers – San Diego was one of three AFC West teams that made the playoffs in 2013. The offense again looks capable of leading the Chargers back to the postseason – especially with rookie sensation Keenan Allen coming off a surprise 1,046-yard year. The defense is the only thing that could hold this team back from more success.

14. Baltimore Ravens – Gary Kubiak has been brought in as offensive coordinator to shore up the mess here. The key will be figuring out how to use Bernard Pierce and an aging Ray Rice in tandem. A lot is riding on how linebacker C.J. Mosley and end Timmy Jernigan carry this historically good defense, which has never allowed 4.0 yards per rush in franchise history.

15. Arizona Cardinals – The running game should be a lot more explosive with Andre Ellington stepping into a featured role. But the line needs to do a much better job of protecting Carson Palmer, who was sacked a career-high 41 times. Also, the defense will definitely miss Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last season’s 10-6 team.

ryan-tannehill16. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill is developing into a star quarterback. However, the new offensive line needs to ensure that this continues. The combination of Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno should guarantee that the running game is better this time around.

17. Kansas City Chiefs – It’s hard to see the Chiefs duplicating last year’s performance, where they benefited from one of the league’s weakest schedules. The defense should once again be good, and Jamaal Charles showed that he’s a bonafide star when healthy. But a lack of explosion in the receiving corp coupled with Alex Smith’s weak arm will limit the offense.

18. Detroit Lions – There are plenty of weapons on this team with QB Matthew Stafford, wideouts Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, TE Eric Ebron, and running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Switching to defense, Ziggy Ansah and Ndamukong Suh need to put lots of pressure on opposing quarterbacks to keep a weak secondary from being exposed.

19. Atlanta Falcons – Many are picking the Falcons to far exceed the dismal 4-12 record from their last campaign. But we think that a few more regular season games are in order before predicting a return to NFC South dominance. Regardless, Atlanta should be much better with offensive line additions and a healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones.

20. St. Louis Rams – The Sam Bradford loss hurts, there’s no way around that. But tailback Zac Stacy still gives this offense one weapon that opposing defenses will have trouble dealing with. Unfortunately, playing in the league’s toughest division, the NFC West, will ensure that St. Louis doesn’t make the playoffs.

geno-smith-jets21. New York Jets – The situation under center isn’t as dire this season, with Geno Smith looking more polished in the preseason. And even if he fails, at least they have Michael Vick to fall back on. The secondary is much more of a concern because Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson are the only truly experienced cornerbacks on the roster.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Everything from the Doug Martin injury to the Josh Freeman situation was a disaster for this team. But now they start fresh with Martin back and Josh McCown under center. Acquiring guard Logan Mankins in a trade with the Patriots was definitely a smart move for this team because their offensive line is unstable.

23. New York Giants – You wouldn’t think that the offense would be as bad as it was in 2013, when Eli Manning threw nine more interceptions than touchdowns. But under new offensive coordinator Bob McAdoo, the team looks atrocious. Let’s hope in this case that the preseason really doesn’t mean anything.

24. Tennessee Titans – The passing game could really click this year with Jake Locker throwing to playmakers like Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. But it’s a little unsettling that heralded rookie Bishop Sankey hasn’t been able to take the starting job away from plodding veteran Shonn Greene. Once Sankey breaks out, this team will start experiencing success.

dez-bryant25. Dallas Cowboys – Dallas is saved from being the worst team by an offense that features Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray. But their defense is even worse from a year ago, when they allowed the third-most yards in NFL history. The losses of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee spell doom for the Boys.

26. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Cassel better hope that he can continue playing as strongly as he did in the preseason. Otherwise the Teddy Bridgewater era will be ushered in sooner, rather than later. Regardless of what happens at QB, though, Adrian Peterson looks to have yet another strong year running the ball.

27. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney looked pretty explosive in preseason games and should have a long career of terrorizing opposing passers. As for the Texans’ own quarterback situation, Ryan Fitzpatrick starts with the reigns. But with Ryan Mallet coming over in a trade, should we expect a future QB battle?

28. Buffalo Bills – The Bills had one of the NFL’s most-underrated defenses last season after holding quarterbacks to the second-lowest rating (behind Seattle). But much like Houston, Buffalo needs to worry about their own passer since E.J. Manuel has shown little progression in his second year. It’s no coincidence that the Bills recently signed Kyle Orton to a two-year, $11 million contract, making him the league’s highest-paid backup.

robert-griffin-knee29. Washington Redskins – This preseason was highlighted by Joe Theismann’s comments that Kirk Cousins (4 TD’s, 1 INT) was badly outplaying Robert Griffin III (0 TD’s, 2 INT’s). It doesn’t matter, though, because coach Jay Gruden has handed Griffin the ball. He’ll now hope to get back to his rookie success, rather than last season’s debacle.

30. Cleveland Browns – Brian Hoyer didn’t look overly sharp while winning the starting job over Johnny Manziel. But he does boast a 3-0 career record as a starter. It’s almost impossible to see this mark remaining intact with Cleveland traveling to Pittsburgh, especially since the suspended WR Josh Gordon won’t be available this game – or any game in 2014 for that matter.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacksonville didn’t win a game until Week 10; then they went 4-4 after that point. We certainly don’t think that this indicates a .500 or better Jaguars club this season. But rookie Blake Bortles should take over at QB soon and start a new and better era in Jacksonville football.

32. Oakland Raiders – Oakland has been in rebuilding mode for over a decade. This season doesn’t look to be any different, with a quarterback controversy already due to Matt Schaub’s poor performance. The Raiders wanted Derek Carr to hold the clipboard for his first season, however, this doesn’t seem so likely now.

Rashard Mendenhall retires Earlier than expected

rashard-mendenhall-retiresNoted running back Rashard Mendenhall has retired after six years in the NFL. In comparison to the average football career, six years is fairly lengthy. But what’s interesting in Mendenhall’s case is that he could’ve stretched his career out at least a couple more years.

Sure, the 2013 season wasn’t a career-best for Mendy, as he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. But the Arizona Cardinals did give him 217 carries, which he turned into 687 yards and 8 touchdowns while splitting work with Andre Ellington.

Last month, through his blog on Huffington Post, Mendenhall opened up about a religious vision he had two years ago. He saw himself swimming in a large body of water at night, commenting that this would be dangerous under normal circumstances. However, he was swimming towards a statue of the Blessed Mother and felt protected during his journey. Mendenhall concluded his post by writing:

That day I sat on my couch two years ago was the very next day after I tore my ACL in week 17. The journey I envisioned is the two years of rebuilding that would follow. And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.

rashard-mendenhall-retires-1Now that the rebuilding process is over, it looks like Mendenhall is ready to move on from the game after a pretty solid career. His pro football days began when he was picked 23rd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. Showing an excellent blend of speed (4.41 forty time) and power (26 bench press reps) at the combine, Mendenhall was looked at as Pittsburgh’s running back of the future.

His rookie season didn’t go as planned, though, when he suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder after a hit by Ray Lewis. Mendenhall would come back strong in the 2009 season when he rushed for 1,108 yards and 7 touchdowns on 242 carries (4.6 YPC). He did even better in 2010, racking up 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns on 324 carries. This year also saw Mendenhall play in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers, which Pittsburgh lost.

2011 marked a decline in Mendenhall’s production and carries, though he still remained an integral part of the team. He rushed for 928 yards and 9 TD’s on 228 carries. He rarely played in 2012 and tore his ACL at the end of the year. However, Mendenhall was still able to land a $2.5 million contract with Arizona last season, which shows that he probably could’ve continued finding work in the NFL if he felt like doing so.

Best Bet to win Last AFC Wild Card Spot in 2013

new-york-jets-wild-cardIn most cases, NFL Wild Card teams need at least 9 or 10 wins to secure a postseason berth. However, this year is shaping up to be quite special since eight teams have a legitimate shot at grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot. And this has created quite a bit of excitment heading into the last few weeks of the season.

Looking at all of the teams that have records ranging between 6-6 and 4-7, an 8-8 record might even be good enough to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. So which of these mediocre teams could find themselves competing against the league’s elite in the postseason? Let’s take a look by ranking the eight teams that still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

1. New York Jets (5-6) Geno Smith may be playing terrible right now, but he hasn’t killed the Jets’ playoff chances yet. This is especially the case when you consider that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of any other team. They face Miami (home), Oakland (home), Cleveland (home), Carolina (away), Cleveland (home) and Miami again (away). The two games between New York and the Dolphins could potentially decide the Wild Card. Look for the Jets to go 3-2 or 4-1 the rest of the way, with road losses to Carolina and maybe Miami.

joe-flacco2. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – The Ravens seemingly have the best chance on this list since they boast the top record and have head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins. However, it’s hard to like their remaining schedule, which includes games against Detroit (road), New England (home) and Cincinnati (away) to close out the season. Their only cupcake is Minnesota at home, which could potentially be their lone win in these four contests.

3. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Before Baltimore won, Tennessee was sitting in the Wild Card spot since they hold all of the tiebreakers. Their schedule ranks somewhere in the middle with two easy games in Jacksonville (away) and Houston (home) to end the year. But they must win at least one of their next three contests (@Indianapolis, @Denver, Arizona) for these final two to matter.

4. San Diego (5-6) – The one saving grace for San Diego is that a couple of their toughest games are at home, as they host Cincinnati and Kansas City. They also play the Giants and Oakland at home, but must travel to Denver in a couple of weeks. San Diego stole a win in Kansas City; can they do it again at Mile High?

5. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Most people wrote the Dolphins off after the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. But they’ve since stayed in the hunt by going 2-2. Their remaining schedule isn’t impossible, but it does include three road games. Here’s a look at how they finish out the year: @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh, New England, @Buffalo, NY Jets.

cj-spiller6. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Based on record alone, the Bills are going to have a tough time making the postseason. However, they come out of the bye week with a healthier CJ Spiller and a somewhat favorable schedule: Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Miami, @New England.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Pittsburgh lost the big matchup against Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and now find themselves needing to win at least 3 out of 4 to make the playoffs. The best thing that they have going in their favor is scheduling: Miami, Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Cleveland. However, Aaron Rodgers should be back for the Green Bay game.

8. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns caused some excitement earlier in the year after starting 3-3. But they’ve since cooled off, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They could jump back into the playoff picture with a home win over Jacksonville this weekend. But it’s entirely possible that they lose these four games to end the year: @New England, Chicago, @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh.

Whoever make the playoffs out of this list will be a big underdog in their first-round game. Of course, this could still make for some interesting spread betting and live wagering opportunities, depending upon what the playoff matchup ends up being.

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.