I promised myself I wouldn’t cry…. *sniff*
Most will focus on those last two fumbles, but I don’t think it should have come down to the wire at all. We are a better team than the Falcons this year, but it wasn’t apparent in Toronto. Even I am prepared to accept the near-inevitable demise of our playoff hopes. What I’m not willing to do, however, is give up on the potential of this team. I’m eager to see how our guys respond to this adversity for the rest of the year. I think they may surprise some people. Bring on the Bucs.
1. Seattle Seahawks (same): If Seattle can hold on to that homefield advantage, it’s hard to see anyone else reaching the Super Bowl from the NFC this year. The Saints offense looked like the Jags offense on Monday night in Seattle.
2. Denver Broncos (same): That first round bye seems just about wrapped up now. Denver effectively has a two-game lead on the Chiefs, and a two-game lead on the #3 seeded Colts. With four games left, all against teams with losing records, I’d call it a foregone conclusion.
3. New Orleans Saints (same): Yes, that was an ugly performance by the Saints on Monday night. I’d still give them the edge over the Panthers for now. Sunday night will give the definitive answer of who owns the NFC South, as the Saints and Panthers do battle.
4. Carolina Panthers (same): The Panthers won a game they should have won, and they did it handily. It’s not being talked about much, but the Panthers technically control their destiny, with TWO games against the Saints in the next three weeks.
5. New England Patriots (same): I mean, the Patriots are really good, but BARELY pulling out the win against the troubled Texans won’t instill much confidence in the New England fanbase.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (same): Yes, I know, they’ve lost three in a row. Two of those losses were to the best team in the AFC, so I can’t blame them too much. Lose this week to the Redskins, though… and then it’s time to write off the Chiefs as a fluke.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (same): Beating a strong Charger team is impressive, and that Cincy defense continues to be an asset. Andy Dalton still needs some work, but he’s doing enough to win games, which is what counts. This week a win over the Colts would make it clear that the Bengals are ready for the postseason.
8. San Francisco 49ers (+1): The Niners are starting to look like themselves again, which is bad news for the rest of the league. The pesky Rams have been swept, but the Seahawks loom large this week. You can imagine the Niners want some redemption for their 3-point outing in Seattle in Week 2.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (+2): Nick Foles STILL hasn’t thrown an interception this year. 19 touchdowns, ZERO interceptions. After handling the Cardinals, the Eagles look to further increase their standing in the NFC by taking on the NFC North-leading Lions.
10. Indianapolis Colts (same): I continue to be underwhelmed by the Colts, but I can’t argue with their record. If they really want to make a statement now, they need to overcome the stifling Bengals defense.
11. Detroit Lions (+2): Beating the Packers on Thanksgiving was a BIG deal for the Lions (though they should temper their elation, considering the absence of Aaron Rodgers). Still, the Lions are in the driver’s seat for now. Can they stop the high-flying Eagles, though?
12. Arizona Cardinals (-4): Well, that Cardinals-mania was short-lived, huh? It would be easy to dismiss the Cardinals at this point, but they are still right in the middle of the wild card race. With three divisional games remaining, they can make up a lot of ground.
13: Baltimore Ravens (+1): Suddenly the Ravens are the #6 seed in the AFC. They might keep it at this rate. After an easy game against the Vikings, though, their last three games are against current division leaders.
14. Dallas Cowboys (+1): The Cowboys’ schedule is their best friend at this point. After beating the Raiders last week, their remaining games are all against struggling teams… except for the big game against the Eagles in Week 17. That game could decide the fate of both teams.
15. Chicago Bears (-3): Facing the Cowboys this week will be these Bears, who are circling the drain now. Losing to the Vikings showed just how far the Bears have fallen, and now they need to recover fast. They NEED Jay Cutler back, and they need help, as they’re effectively two games back from the Lions now.
16. San Diego Chargers (same): Well, the Chargers lost to a good team, but they’re still a threat. They only stand a game out of the wild card. The fact that they still face the Broncos and Chiefs again, however, doesn’t bode well for them.
17. St. Louis Rams (same): Another loss to a good team here, and (again) I’d say the Rams remain dangerous. Their playoff chances have been just about dashed, but they can effectively shut the Cardinals hopes down this week.
18. Miami Dolphins (+5): Ok, the Dolphins get some credit. Not for beating the pitiful Jets, but for being 6-6 at this stage in the AFC. After the Steelers this week, the Dolphins close out their season against their whole division. They’ve at least got a shot at that 6th seed (as much as that pains me).
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (-1): Amazingly, the Steelers are still in the wild card race as well, but losing to the Ravens definitely hurt their chances. They get a chance to make headway, this week against the Dolphins.
20. Green Bay Packers (-1): The only thing keeping the Packers from plummeting in these rankings is the fact that Aaron Rodgers’ return is close. He may even play this week against the Falcons. Assuming he’s actually healthy, look for him to take some aggression out on Sunday.
21. New York Giants (-1): Yes, the Giants beat the Redskins. Yes, they also slid a spot. There is a lot wrong with this Giants team, and you can expect that to be made clear this week against the Chargers.
22. Cleveland Browns (-1): The Browns became the latest team to get trapped by the Jaguars, which is shocking. The worst offense in football shredded the Cleveland defense, which boasts one of the most versatile corners in the league in Joe Haden. Who do the Browns have next? The Patriots? Good luck.
23. Buffalo Bills (-1): Now that my tears of anguish/rage have dried, I have to push myself towards the bright side. We are a young team that has put certain building blocks in place. We can get significantly better next year, and don’t forget the teams who have made incredible turnarounds just this year: The Panthers, Chiefs, Saints, and Eagles to name a few. Can we at least beat the Bucs?
24. New York Jets (same): Records be damned! I’ll happily rank the Jets lower than us at this stage. The Jets have scored a TOTAL of 20 points in their last three games, all losses. Hell, they haven’t managed more than a Field Goal in their last two games each. At this point, I think even the Raiders could stop them this week.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (same): The stagnant offense that the Bucs had against a good defense (Carolina) proved that the Bucs still belong in the lower echelons of the league. I would love to see them pushed even lower against Buffalo this week.
26. Tennessee Titans (same): Our old Amish Rifle is playing some of his best football, and he’s got a bad team backing him up. It doesn’t help that his schedule is tough. After losing to the Colts last week, he faces Denver this Sunday.
27. Minnesota Vikings (+2): Beating the Bears was a great accomplishment for a team trying to find ANY silver lining they can. They have nothing to fight for other than pride at this point. The Ravens, on the other hand, will be coming into this week’s game trying to hold onto their playoff spot.
28. Atlanta Falcons (+2): Sigh. Say what you will about the Bills giving that game away, but this proved the Falcons are a different team when they actually have a healthy Roddy White (which they haven’t had all season). The damage has been done, however, which means the Falcons (a talented team) could be SCARY next year after likely nabbing a high draft pick.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (+2): You know that the Jags are going to draft a QB in 2014, but they clearly have a good interim option in Chad Henne, who has repeatedly proven that he deserves to start in Jacksonville. You kind of wonder what would’ve happened if Henne started from Week 1. The Jags get a very winnable game on Thursday night against Houston.
30. Oakland Raiders (-3): The Raiders are definitely having a rough time, and they just couldn’t seem to stop DeMarco Murray from scoring THREE TIMES on Thanksgiving. What could cure them? A game against the Jets!
31. Washington Redskins (-3): Robert Griffin III is simply not himself this year. Maybe he’s not 100% healthy, maybe he’s just afraid to make deep cuts again and cause an injury. Either way, RG3 has turned into just another QB this year, and not a very good one. I can’t see him handling the sack-happy Chiefs well.
32. Houston Texans (same): I doubt the Texans are taking much of a moral victory out of ALMOST beating the Patriots. They have the worst record in the NFL, and they face the Jags in Jacksonville this week. I think the Jags are even favored. The Texans have been playoff contenders for the last couple years! How the mighty have fallen.