Heading into Week 15, I feel like I’ve finally figured out the NFL…well, the best team at least. See, as a Bears fan, I had a front-row seat for that blizzard that destroyed Chicago. I’m not talking about the snowstorm and 50 mile per hour winds, I’m talking about Tom Brady and the Patriots. After the Pats, there’s still plenty of movement in the top 15, but we are definitely settling into a nice group of contenders. See where your team stands as we embark on the stretch playoff run. And as always, let me know what you think in the comments below.
NFL Power Rankings
Last Week: 1
New England Patriots (11-2)Based on the past month, there is absolutely no doubt who the best team in the league is right now. The only question is, which unit on the Patriots is playing better? The defense has only allowed 17 points in its last two and a half games. Then again, the offense has scored 116 points over that same time span. Should we just reserve the Super Bowl trophy for them right now?
Last Week: 2
Atlanta Falcons (11-2)They may not be dominating in the same fashion as the Pats, but then again, who is? Still, these Falcons can’t be counted out among the NFL’s elite, especially with a running game that’s coming on strong in the last month. Michael Turner has averaged 110 yards and over a touchdown per game in the team’s last four contests.
Last Week: 3
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3)The defense is as strong as ever, but the offense is starting to become a major concern. The Steelers have only scored one offensive touchdown in their last 11 quarters, and even that one came on an extremely short field because of a Troy Polamalu strip-sack. Defense wins championships, but in today’s NFL, you also need an offense that can put up points to compete for a title.
Last Week: 8
Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)Speaking of putting points up on the board, these Eagles are the second highest scoring team in the league and are gaining the most yards per game in the NFL. Couple that with a defense that’s first in interceptions and second in the league in turnover differential and you have yourself a contender. This weekend’s tilt against the Giants will determine if the Eagles can make a run at a home game and a second seed in the playoffs.
Last Week: 9
New Orleans Saints (10-3)Is it strange that the defending Super Bowl champs are 10-3 while riding a six-game winning streak and absolutely nobody is talking about them? With two tough roadies coming up against Baltimore and Atlanta, that will probably change very soon.
Last Week: 4
Baltimore Ravens (9-4)What is wrong with this Ravens D? Yes, the defense scored the game-clinching overtime TD on an interception, but the game only reached overtime because the team’s defense surrendered the lead in the fourth quarter for the eighth time this season. The defense has three weeks to shape up or else we could be looking at the Ravens’ shortest playoff run of the last three years.
Last Week: 10
San Diego Chargers (7-6)Niners. Bengals. Broncos. It’s like the Chargers put together a Christmas list of who they want to play to close out the season and Santa gave them everything they wanted. Those three teams are the only thing standing between the Chargers and a 10-6 record. Will that be enough to get into the playoffs? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Last Week: 11
New York Giants (9-4)As long as they keep the ball out of Eli Manning’s hands, I think this is a legit contender. Unfortunately, the quarterback has to touch the ball on offense…on every play, at that! Eli has three fumbles lost and eight interceptions in the Giants four losses, which is something he has to watch against the turnover happy Eagles this weekend in their clash for the NFC East title.
Last Week: 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5)Speaking of huge division title match-ups, the Jaguars have an opportunity to sweep the Colts and virtually lock up the division this weekend. Can they do it to secure Jacksonville’s first division title since 1999?
Last Week: 5
Green Bay Packers (8-5)This ranking comes with a HUGE asterisk. If Aaron Rodgers has to miss any more gametime after his second concussion of the season, they’re barely a top 20 team. Rodgers’ health is the most important factor in Green Bay for the last three games of the season.
Last Week: 6
New York Jets (9-4)This is a hug drop from the top three just a couple weeks ago, but the Jets have completely unraveled. The offense has only scored 9 points in the last two weeks and their head coach won’t rule out benching his starting QB if he keeps playing like this. Those are not the types of things you want to hear heading into the final three weeks of the season.
Last Week: 7
Chicago Bears (9-4)It’s hard to tell if the Bears are as bad as they looked against the Patriots or if they just ran into a team that’s on a mission. Either way, one thing is clear: the Bears have to hold onto the ball to be successful. 14 turnovers in 9 wins, 13 turnovers in 4 losses. If they hold onto the ball, they’ll hold onto their division lead.
Last Week: 14
Indianapolis Colts (7-6)I need to see a couple more wins from Peyton and company before I really believe they’re back. A win over current AFC South leader Jacksonville this weekend would be a good place to start.
Last Week: 17
Miami Dolphins (7-6)6 road wins and only one home win? Trying to figure out this team is like trying to figure out a Rubik’s Cube, nearly impossible.
Last Week: 12
Kansas City Chiefs (8-5)It’s pretty clear what the AFC West comes down to: Matt Cassel’s appendix. If Cassel can heal quickly enough from his appendectomy operation, this offense will be able to get back on track and carry the Chiefs to a division title. But if we have to see Brodie Croyle run the Chiefs offense again, it might be an epic collapse out of the playoff hunt for the Chiefs.
Last Week: 15
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)Forget the fact that they only won this week because Washington couldn’t kick the ball through the uprights, forget the fact that the Bucs haven’t beaten a winning team yet this year, the only fact that truly matters is this: If the Bucs continue to take care of business against losing teams, they’ll enter the final week of the season with a chance to knock off the Saints and possibly grab a wild card spot. If you read that at the beginning of the season, you’d probably fall out of your chair laughing, so I’d say this season has been a smashing success for Tampa.
Last Week: 16
Oakland Raiders (6-7)The playoffs are unlikely, but the Silver and Gold can get through a season without double-digit losses for the first time since 2002. Hey, that counts for something, right?
Last Week: 18
St. Louis Rams (6-7)After back-to-back road wins, a beating from the Saints knocked the Rams back down to earth. But the loss didn’t knock the Rams out of playoff contention, as St. Louis still sits atop the NFC West with two games against division foes (Niners, Seahawks) left.
Last Week: 22
Dallas Cowboys (4-9)Big D is severely lacking a D this year. The Cowboys’ defense has allowed the second most points in the league this season and is currently on pace to allow the most points in franchise history.
Last Week: 20
Houston Texans (5-8)Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Texans had a promising off-season, started hot, and then faded as soon as the real race for the playoffs began. There’s so much talent in Houston, what has to change for this team to make it to the next level?
Last Week: 28
San Francisco 49ers (5-8)In their past four games, they’ve lost by 21, won by 21, lost by 18 and then won by 21 again. Your guess is as good as mine as far as what comes next for the Niners…
Last Week: 27
Buffalo Bills (3-10)Win number three is on the board, but I can’t help but wonder if the Bills will regret these late season wins during next year’s draft, when they’re not capable of getting a franchise-saving quarterback because they’re picking too low.
Last Week: 19
Cleveland Browns (5-8)I dubbed them the best five-win team in the league last week…and they promptly went out and lost to Buffalo. As one of nine teams already eliminated from the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see how hard the Browns continue to compete.
Last Week: 21
Seattle Seahawks (6-7)The Seahawks have lost five of their last seven games and still somehow sit in a tie for first in the NFC West. Are we sure we want to send a team to the playoffs from that division?
Last Week: 26
Detroit Lions (3-10)The Lions broke all sorts of streaks in Week 14. They got their first division win since 2007, they got their first win against the Packers in 10 tries and they got their first win period since Halloween.
Last Week: 23
Minnesota Vikings (5-8)Brett Favre’s consecutive start streak is finally over and now the Vikings have…well, they have to figure out who’s going to play quarterback for them next year. Is it Tarvaris Jackson? Is it Joe Webb? Is it…gulp…Brett Favre again?
Last Week: 32
Arizona Cardinals (4-9)After scoring 43 points total in their previous four games, the Cardinals exploded for 43 in a romp over the Broncos. But before the Cards go puffing their chests out, they might want to remember that they’re in last place in the saddest division in football.
Last Week: 24
Washington Redskins (5-8)If you weren’t convinced this team was in disarray before, look no further than the last play of their game against the Bucs in Week 14. The Redskins’ inability to complete the most simple play in football, an extra point, meant a 17-16 loss rather than a trip to overtime.
Last Week: 25
Tennessee Titans (5-8)Six straight losses have seen this team plummet from atop the AFC to last in their division with nothing to look forward to but next season. And for those of you still keeping track, Chris Johnson is on pace to finish the season about 1,200 yards short of his goal of 2,500.
Last Week: 29
Denver Broncos (3-10)Leave it to the reeling Broncos to become the first team this season to lost their debut with an interim coach. Lost in the firing of Denver head man Josh McDaniels last week has been the atrocious play of Kyle Orton lately. In his past two games, Orton is barely completing 40 percent of his passes and has three interceptions against no touchdowns.
Last Week: 30
Cincinnati Bengals (2-11)With all of the bad teams down here at the bottom of the rankings, the Bengals actually have the longest current losing streak going, at 10. I guess Cincy should’ve seen this coming, considering the Bengals haven’t had back-to-back winning seasons since 1975-76.
Last Week: 31
Carolina Panthers (1-12)And yet, they’re still not as bad as the Panthers, who have only generated more than 200 yards passing once all season. I hope Andrew Luck likes Carolina blue…