Well football fanatics, this is the end my friends. Due to some holiday scheduling quirks, the Professor won’t be around for the last couple weeks of the season. I will leave you with these rankings as my last of the year. It makes sense this way, too, going out after one of the more unpredictable weeks of the season. There were more upsets this past weekend than we see in most NCAA Tournaments.
But all of the surprises didn’t shake up the rankings as much as you may have expected. To clarify: a team can beat another team and still sit below them in the power rankings. That’s because these rankings reflect the big picture, not just week-to-week results. The Packers may have lost to the Chiefs, but that doesn’t mean the Packers aren’t still a top five NFL team. Which spot in the top five exactly? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out.
So happy holidays and a happy new year and I’ll see all of you in 2012 for the playoffs!
NFL Power Rankings
Last Week: 2
New Orleans Saints (11-3)What do you think is more impressive: landing atop the Professor’s power rankings or setting an NFL record? (I know which one I’d choose…) Drew Brees has a chance to do both in the same week. Brees is only 305 yards away from setting the single-season record for passing yards in a season. What’s more, the Saints have won six straight and look like the only team in the NFC that can keep up with the Packers on the scoreboard.
Last Week: 3
New England Patriots (11-3)Speaking of prolific offenses, the Pats have only been held under 30 points three times this season. New England has so many weapons on offense that their second tight end (Aaron Hernandez) led the team in receptions and receiving yards in their Week 15 destruction of the Denver Broncos.
Last Week: 11
Green Bay Packers (13-1)Not having Greg Jennings hurts Aaron Rodgers, but not as much as getting sacked over and over again hurts Rodgers. The Pack needs to shore up its offensive line in order to keep Rodgers upright, healthy and flinging the ball past opposing defenses.
Last Week: 7
San Francisco 49ers (11-3)OK, now that we got the fancy-pants offenses out of the way, let’s get to a smash-mouth defense that will knock around any team in its way. San Francisco’s three sack, three interception masterpiece over the Steelers on Monday Night shows that this defense won’t back down from any offense.
Last Week: 11
Atlanta Falcons (9-5)Since starting out 2-3, the Falcons have rolled to seven wins in nine games and it looks like Matt Ryan has stepped it up a notch. Ryan has 19 TDs compared to only 6 INTs during the Falcons last nine games. If he keeps performing like this, he can keep the Falcons competitive with the conference’s bigger name QBs.
Last Week: 4
Baltimore Ravens (10-4)Eesh, that was one ugly loss to San Diego. It wasn’t the first time the Ravens laid down against an inferior opponent this season, but I hope it’s the last. The Ravens lucked out when the Steelers lost on Monday, so they still control their playoff seed destiny.
Last Week: 5
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4)Big Ben on one foot may be better than Charlie Batch on two feet, but that doesn’t mean he’s good. Pittsburgh’s last two games are against St. Louis and Cleveland, which are both winnable without their star QB. If I were them, I’d try to win without Ben and hope for a fully healed QB in the playoffs.
Last Week: 12
Detroit Lions (9-5)It’s been an up-and-down season in Detroit this year, but the bottom line is they control their own destiny. If they win just one more game, the Lions will make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
Last Week: 6
Houston Texans (10-4)The Texans were due for a letdown after finally clinching their first playoff berth in franchise history and they suffered that letdown against the Panthers. I’m not surprised T.J. Yates struggled, but I am shocked that the defense caved at home, giving up its second highest point total of the season. One bit of good news for the Texans: defensive coordinator Wade Phillips looks to be returning home soon after his surgery last week.
Last Week: 13
Dallas Cowboys (8-6)The other teams in the NFC East might want to get a bucket for when they face Tony Romo in the last two weeks of the season, because the Cowboys QB is on fire. In his last seven games, Romo has 18 TD passes against only 2 INTs. If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs this year, you can blame whoever you want, just don’t blame Romo.
Last Week: 17
San Diego Chargers (7-7)Speaking of hot streaks, the Chargers have won their last three games by a combined score of 109-38. Unfortunately, they don’t have any games left against the Broncos, so they’re going to need some help to ride that momentum into the post-season.
Last Week: 14
Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)I think we all knew at the beginning of the season that the Week 16 match-up between the Bengals and the Cardinals would have major playoff implications. Wait, what?! Even if the Bengals don’t make the playoffs this year, Andy Dalton only needs one more win to deliver Cincy its fourth winning season since 1990. That feat alone should be worth a couple Rookie of the Year votes for the Red Rocket.
Last Week: 19
Philadelphia Eagles (6-8)A lot like the Chargers, the Eagles are probably going to suffer from a case of too little, too late, but let me be the first to state that I desperately hope the Eagles make it into the playoffs at 8-8. Nothing would be more exciting than watching Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy go on a high-flying playoff run, regardless of how much regular season drama they went through.
Last Week: 20
Seattle Seahawks (7-7)The Marshawn Lynch Tour of Destruction and Skittles continues, as Lynch torched Chicago for two more rushing touchdowns on Sunday. Beast Mode set the franchise record for consecutive games with a touchdown (10) and became the first Seattle rusher to top 1,000 yards since 2005.
Last Week: 9
Denver Broncos (8-6)The quarterback we grew accustomed to watching win ugly lost ugly on Sunday. Now the real drama starts: how will Tebow bounce back from his second loss as a starter with a playoff spot on the line?
Last Week: 21
Arizona Cardinals (7-7)Tim Tebow isn’t the only quarterback who knows how to win ugly, he just gets all the attention. John Skelton is 4-1 as a starter this year but only has a QB rating of 63.5.
Last Week: 8
New York Giants (7-7)The Giants always seem to let us down just when we think they’re becoming a real contender. So which Giants team will show up with their season on the line this weekend in their “road” game against the Jets? Your guess is as good as mine.
Last Week: 10
New York Jets (8-6)Five of their six losses have come against winning teams (and the other was against the Eagles, who aren’t your average sub-.500 team) while seven of their eight wins have come against losing teams. That just doesn’t sound like playoff material to me.
Last Week: 15
Oakland Raiders (7-7)The Raiders picked a terrible time to go on a three-game losing streak. The way those three losses unfolded was even worse. Losing to the Packers is acceptable, but that loss was sandwiched by a blowout to the Dolphins and a last-minute home meltdown against the Lions. Now the Raiders have to hope other teams start losing if they want to make their mid-season trade for Carson Palmer worth it.
Last Week: 16
Tennessee Titans (7-7)Losing to the Colts with a playoff spot on the line should drop the Titans all the way to the bottom of the rankings, but like I said before, these rankings are about the big picture. If the Titans are also focusing on the big picture, then they should consider starting Jake Locker over Matt Hasselbeck for the rest of the season.
Last Week: 25
Washington Redskins (5-9)The Redskins are winning just enough games at the wrong time of the season to knock themselves out of good draft position. I’m not sure where this franchise is going, but if the longterm plan includes Rex Grossman, they’re in trouble. (Trust me. I’m saying this as a Bears fan and an expert in all things Rexy.)
Last Week: 22
Miami Dolphins (5-9)Reggie Bush, franchise running back. I could barely type those words without laughing, but Bush is well on his way to proving me wrong. Given #1 back duties this year, Bush is on his way topping 1,000 yards rushing for the first time as a pro.
Last Week: 28
Kansas City Chiefs (6-8)Good for interim quarterback Kyle Orton and interim head coach Romeo Crennel, who accomplished what no other team has been able to do this season: beat the Packers. What’s more, the Chiefs are still somehow magically in playoff contention. Only in the AFC West…
Last Week: 18
Chicago Bears (7-7)Caleb Hanie’s numbers as a starting QB: 50% completion percentage, 3 TDs, 9 INTs, 41.8 QB rating. That is all you need to know about how the Bears went from a secure playoff spot on the day Jay Cutler got injured to the complete non-contenders they are today.
Last Week: 24
Carolina Panthers (5-9)Apparently the Panthers ran a play on Sunday, the hilariously named “Fumblerooskie,” based off of a play in the move Little Giants. If that doesn’t make you root for the Panthers, I don’t know what will.
Last Week: 23
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)I don’t know about this Blaine Gabbert kid. Any Jags fans out there? Let me know what you think. Because what I see so far in his rookie season is a QB who drops back to pass only to panic when the rush comes.
Last Week: 27
Cleveland Browns (4-10)The Browns are in a tough spot to finish out the season. They have to keep Colt McCoy out of the lineup for now because of the concussion he suffered against the Steelers, but that means they can’t get any more time to evaluate whether or not McCoy is their franchise QB heading into next year.
Last Week: 26
Buffalo Bills (5-9)My goodness, what is happening in Buffalo? If the Bills don’t win one of their last two, they’ll have to celebrate three major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve) without a win.
Last Week: 29
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)I hope Josh Freeman is hurt, because if he’s playing this poorly and he’s healthy, the Bucs might have to go back to the drawing board at the quarterback position next year.
Last Week: 32
Indianapolis Colts (1-13)Colts win! Orlovsky wins! Now let’s not mess this up, Colts. You don’t want to win any more or you’ll lose your prime positioning in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
Last Week: 31
St. Louis Rams (2-12)The stalled Rams offense is just sad to watch at this point. St. Louis just can’t hold onto the ball once it gets it, ranking second to last in the NFC in first downs. It’s like they’re playing a game of keep-away every week…and losing…badly.
Last Week: 30
Minnesota Vikings (2-12)The Vikes are ranked 4th in rushing yards and 10th in rushing yards allowed, yet their weak secondary has been leaking all season so the Vikes are dead last in points allowed on defense. Throw in an Adrian Peterson injury, a rookie quarterback and the Colts first win of the season and you have the recipe for last place in the power rankings.