Huge fans of the power rankings out there may have noticed I was not around last week to rank the teams. That means it’s been two weeks since I last sorted through the NFL hierarchy. A lot can happen in 14 days in the NFL, so fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, there’s been a lot of movement. Keep reading to see which teams landed where…
NFL Power Rankings
Last Week: 1
(13-0)The Packers finally ran into a bit of adversity in Week 14, losing wideout Greg Jennings for the rest of the regular season to a sprained knee. With only three weeks left, can Aaron Rodgers and the Pack keep it rolling without their superstar receiver?
Last Week: 6
New Orleans Saints (10-3)Pulling out a tough road win against Tennessee when the offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders made me a believer in these Saints. If you look at the schedule, the Saints might be able to sneak in and grab the NFC’s 2 seed for the playoffs.
Last Week: 2
New England Patriots (10-3)That defense terrifies me. And not in a good way. While the Pats are the 14th ranked scoring defense, they give up the most yards in the league. Sooner or later, all of those long drives will start resulting in more points.
Last Week: 3
Baltimore Ravens (10-3)It’s kind of crazy, but the Ravens have gone 4-0 without the injured Ray Lewis. Maybe they should consider benching him once he’s healthy for the playoffs to see if they can make a Super Bowl run. (Relax, Ravens fans, I’m just kidding.)
Last Week: 5
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3)While Big Ben might be able to tough it out with his busted foot, the Steelers won’t be at full strength and that’s bad news for a team that’s neck and neck with the Ravens right now for homefield in the playoffs. If Ben misses any one of the team’s last three games, Pittsburgh is probably looking at a wild-card berth.
Last Week: 7
Houston Texans (10-3)The magic of T.J. Yates has the Texans in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. But the injuries continue to mar what is otherwise a dream season for the Texans. In addition to losing Matt Schaub and Mario Williams for the season and Andre Johnson and Arian Foster for parts of the season, Houston found out yesterday that it would also be losing defensive coordinator Wade Phillips for two weeks due to a medical procedure. Phillips has transformed the Texans from the 30th ranked defense last season to #1 this year.
Last Week: 4
San Francisco 49ers (10-3)The Niners have lost two out of their last three and now have Pittsburgh coming to town for a Monday-nighter. While the NFC West is already locked up, San Fran needs to turn things around if they want to hold on to that 2 seed in the NFC.
Last Week: 16
New York Giants (7-6)They’ve only won once in their last five games, but they’re still in the driver’s seat to win the NFC East. If the Giants sneak into the playoffs, lookout for them to make some noise behind an experienced QB (Eli Manning) and a developing defense (including the new stud defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul).
Last Week: 13
Denver Broncos (8-5)PRA-TER! PRA-TER! PRA-TER! Forget Tebow, fans should be chanting for the Broncos kicker. During Denver’s current six-game win streak, Prater is 8-for-9 in the second half and overtime including three consecutive game-winners…the last of which was from 51 yards out. Amazing.
Last Week: 14
New York Jets (8-5)The Jets have spun off three straight wins against the murderer’s row of the Bills, Redskins and Chiefs. In other words, the competition hasn’t exactly been stiff. Let’s see how they close out the season with a double dose of the NFC East (@PHI, vs. NYG) and a division game against the revitalized Dolphins on the season’s final day.
Last Week: 9
Atlanta Falcons (8-5)The Falcons knew they had to get more big plays on offense to keep up with the Packers and the Saints in the NFC and it looks like their big off-season moves have paid off. The Falcons rank in the top ten in plays of both 20 yards or more and 40 yards or more.
Last Week: 15
Detroit Lions (8-5)Lost in all the hubbub over the Lions lack of discipline has been the disappearance of Calvin Johnson. Megatron was one of the league’s elite receivers through six weeks, only to fall completely off the face of the earth ever since. Johnson had a season-low 29 receiving yards last week and only has one touchdown in his last five games. The Lions are still in the thick of the playoff mix, but it won’t matter unless they get their best offensive player back on track.
Last Week: 8
Dallas Cowboys (7-6)It just doesn’t make sense anymore. The Cowboys find new and excruciating ways to lose each week. Just two weeks ago I wrote about the Cowboys improvement in close games. Well, since then, they’ve dropped two straight heartbreakers and have fallen out of first place. Some people think performance in close games comes down to luck from year to year, but the Cowboys continue to find ways to lose close games and if they can’t stop that trend, they’ll miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four years.
Last Week: 11
Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)I expected the Bengals to go 1-3 during their rough stretch (vs. PIT, @ BAL, vs. CLE, @PIT) but losing at home against the Texans and their third string QB might’ve sealed the playoff fate of this year’s team. Still, there is a lot to be excited about in the Queen City. Andy Dalton looks like a franchise QB, while wideout A.J. Green might be the most explosive offensive rookie in the league.
Last Week: 10
Oakland Raiders (7-6)In the last two weeks, Carson Palmer has completed 53 percent of his passes while throwing five interceptions. Can you guess if the Raiders won either of those games? Palmer needs to take care better care of the ball if the Raiders want to wrestle back the AFC West from the charging Broncos.
Last Week: 17
Tennessee Titans (7-6)The Titans have the 6th best scoring defense in the league and a real shot at the playoffs. Tennessee closes out the season with three division games, starting this weekend against the winless Colts. The real question for the final push is which Chris Johnson will the Titans get: the stud who had more than 150 yards on the ground in both Week 12 and 13 or the bust who finished with 2.1 yards per carry in Week 14?
Last Week: 22
San Diego Chargers (6-7)As Philip Rivers go, so go the Chargers. During their current two-game win streak, Rivers has 6 TDs and 0 INTs. Then again, Rivers has put up those sparkling numbers against the Jags and the Bills. Let’s see if Rivers really has recaptured his mojo when he takes on the Ravens D this Sunday night.
Last Week: 12
Chicago Bears (7-6)Without Jay Cutler, the Bears offense struggled. Without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, the Bears offense should just take a knee and punt. After averaging 26.8 points per game with Cutler in the team’s first 10 games, Chicago has only put up 11 points per game with Caleb Hanie under center.
Last Week: 20
Philadelphia Eagles (5-8)We finally saw flashes of the offense everyone expected in the Eagles win over the Dolphins, but the inconsistent defense hasn’t played well enough to put together any win streaks. The Eagles just can’t stop anybody on the ground and rank 20th in points allowed this season.
Last Week: 24
Seattle Seahawks (6-7)Marshawn Lynch and his Skittles obsessions has gotten all the attention – and why not? He houses Skittles like the Cookie Monster devours cookies – but the Seahawks defense has also played a big part in Seattle’s recent run of four wins in five games. Seattle’s D has only allowed 14.7 points per game over the last five, helping vault Seattle to the fringe of the playoff race.
Last Week: 28
Arizona Cardinals (6-7)If this were a traditional season in the NFC West, the streaking Cardinals would be right in the thick of a division title race. Unfortunately, the Niners have already clinched the division and Arizona’s five wins in six games is a case of too little, too late.
Last Week: 18
Miami Dolphins (4-9)The quarterback is usually the most important position on offense, but you can’t deny Jake Long’s impact on the Dolphins. The left tackle left the game against the Eagles in the first quarter with a back injury and the offense never recovered in a 26-10 home loss.
Last Week: 26
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)If you want to stop the Jacksonville offense, you only have one job: stop Maurice Jones-Drew. Easier said than done. Even with limited offensive weapons around him, Jones-Drew is on pace for his third straight season of at least 1,300 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards.
Last Week: 25
Carolina Panthers (4-9)Everyone knows the Panthers have a building block on offense in Cam Newton. Not as many people know about the superstar defensive end Charles Johnson, who has a shot at double digit sacks for the second consecutive season.
Last Week: 21
Washington Redskins (4-9)This hasn’t exactly been a happy season in the nation’s capital – and it’s only going to get worse. Since 2008, the Redskins have a 3-11 record in December, so don’t exactly expect a turnaround to inspire hope for next season.
Last Week: 19
Buffalo Bills (5-8)This season continues to get sadder and sadder for Buffalo. The last time the Bills won, in a game against the Redskins the day before Halloween, they were 5-2 and in first place. Since then, they’ve been outscored 194-77 and sit in third place, riding a six-game losing streak.
Last Week: 23
Cleveland Browns (4-9)The big story in Cleveland is the possible misdiagnosis of Colt McCoy’s concussion on the sideline. The NFL has GOT to make sure they get these kinds of calls correct. McCoy has shown some promise (even with limited offensive weapons) and is too valuable to risk with such a dangerous injury.
Last Week: 29
Kansas City Chiefs (5-8)New QB? New head coach? I don’t think it really matters for the Chiefs this season, who have lost five different times by 28 or more points in 2011.
Last Week: 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)There’s a lot of blame to go around during this disappointing year in Tampa. I wonder who Bucs fans blame the most. Is it quarterback Josh Freeman? Head coach Raheem Morris? Team mascot Captain Fear?
Last Week: 30
Minnesota Vikings (2-11)Christian Ponder took a huge step backwards on Sunday, throwing three picks and getting benched in the third quarter. Ponder has as many TD passes as interceptions (11) and the Vikings have nothing left to play for this season. It’d be much more productive for Ponder to play out the string and learn the pro game than to stick with career back-up Joe Webb.
Last Week: 31
St. Louis Rams (2-11)I’m starting to worry that Sam Bradford isn’t really a franchise QB. Not only are the Rams 1-9 in Bradford’s starts this year, but he’s only thrown 6 touchdowns in 10 games.
Last Week: 32
Indianapolis Colts (0-13)Peyton Manning threw a football this week! (Remember when that was status quo in Indy instead of the biggest news of the week?)