It’s hard to believe that the NFL regular season is almost over. As we head into the final week of the regular season, we have a few changes at the top of the power rankings. Once the playoffs begin, anything can happen, but look for the teams at the top of these rankings to have plenty of success in the post-season.
1. Denver Broncos (+1): As expected, the Broncos rolled over the Texans, even if it took some time to get the Denver offense going. The big reason why the Broncos move up is their offense has not disappointed this season. The lowest total the Broncos have finished with all season was 20. The Seahawks have scored fewer than that on FOUR separate occasions this season. The Broncos should roll over the Raiders.
2. Seattle Seahawks (-1): The Seahawks actually lost at home, so there goes their aura of invincibility at home. Perhaps they needed to get it out of the way so they could go undefeated at home from here on out? The Rams aren’t exactly a pushover though, and the Cardinals have proven that the Seahawks can be beaten at home. Isn’t it insane that the Seahawks could potentially be a wild card team if they lose this one?
3. Carolina Panthers (+2): The Panthers have now earned a playoff spot, and likely a division title. All it will take is a win over the hapless Falcons and the Panthers could have a first round bye. With help, they could even be the top seed.
4. San Francisco 49ers (+2): The Niners have happily earned their playoff spot, but now they face a suddenly scary Cardinals team that is clawing for a playoff spot. The Niners have something to play for too, since they could still technically win the NFC West with a win and a Seattle loss. Out of all of the current wild card teams, the Niners scare me the most.
5. New England Patriots (+2): The Patriots are clearly playing to their opponent’s skill level. After poor performances against sub-par teams for three weeks, the Patsies SHREDDED the playoff-contending Ravens. While they’ve clinched the division, the Pats still haven’t even wrapped up a first round bye. I would love to see our Bills upset the Patriots in Foxborough, as doing so would make the Patriots’ playoff path much more difficult.
6. New Orleans Saints (-2): The Saints have now lost two in a row since beating the Panthers in New Orleans. At the time, this seemed like a statement win. In both of those losses, the offense got nowhere. When your greatest strength isn’t putting things together on the field, something is definitely wrong. The playoffs are only a win away, which is likely against the Bucs, but how far can the Saints go when Drew Brees isn’t making plays?
7. Cincinnati Bengals (+1): It wasn’t a surprise that the Bengals destroyed the Vikings. Now the Ravens come to town, and the Bengals want revenge for an overtime loss earlier in the season. I’d give the edge to the Bengals, but it’s gonna come down to their defense playing to its full potential.
8. Arizona Cardinals (+2): Color me impressed. The Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Seattle, which hasn’t been done since the 2011 season. What pains me is that the Cardinals could win this game against the Niners and still miss the playoffs. Why? The Saints own the tiebreaker. So the Cardinals need the Saints to lose to the Bucs for a win to matter. Good luck with that.
9. Indianapolis Colts (+2): The Colts managed to regain some respect in my eyes after beating the Chiefs pretty handily. I still can’t give the Colts too much credit since they play in the weakest division in the NFL. Yes, SIX of the Colts’ games are taken up by the Titans, Jags, and Texans. The Colts have been undefeated against those teams, but are 5-5 outside of the AFC South. Sure, the Colts get the Jaguars next week to finish the season, most likely with a win, but they won’t be seeing anyone else from the AFC South in the post-season.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (-7): I have to say I’ve been a believer in the Chiefs from the start. I think their story of turning things around has been great. Even if they lose in the first round of the playoffs, it doesn’t take anything away from what Andy Reid has engineered. In the end though, the Chiefs have dropped off as their schedule became more difficult. They have lost 4 of their last 6 games. What’s more, out of their 11 wins, only TWO have come against teams who now have winning records: the Cowboys and Eagles.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (+1): The Eagles are officially legitimate. I can’t believe they still could miss the playoffs if they lose the battle for the division in Dallas on Sunday night. Assuming they do make it, the Eagles could be a dark horse team. I can only imagine what tricks Chip Kelly has up his sleeves for the playoffs.
12. Baltimore Ravens (-3): At this stage, the defending Super Bowl champs may be out of the playoffs. Their hopes are still alive, but they require a loss from either the Dolphins or the Chargers, along with a difficult win for themselves over the Bengals. A loss knocks them out.
13: San Diego Chargers (+1): The Chargers are officially a long-shot for the playoffs. The Chargers need losses from both Miami and Baltimore, along with a win over the Chiefs to get in. Still, I have the Chargers ranked higher than the entire NFC North, which will have one playoff team among them.
14. Chicago Bears (-1): The Bears REALLY need to shore up that run defense, considering it’s the worst in the league. Now the Bears face a do-or-die game against the Packers, who are just getting Aaron Rodgers back. Bears fans can’t be feeling too comfortable right now.
15. Dallas Cowboys (+4): Amazingly, the Cowboys won BECAUSE of Tony Romo’s performance at the end of the game. However, the fact that it was needed to beat the Redskins is telling. I don’t give the Cowboys much of a chance against the Eagles, especially with Kyle Orton at quarterback, but anything could happen. The Cowboys could actually be in the playoffs this year with one more win.
16. Green Bay Packers (same): I thought that a loss to the Steelers would have pushed the Packers down on this list, but the return of Aaron Rodgers changes everything. Aaron Rodgers starting against the Bears in the battle for the NFC North? Look out Bears. If the Packers make it to the playoffs with a healthy Rodgers, who knows what could happen.
17. Miami Dolphins (-2): The Dolphins should consider themselves VERY lucky. They just got shutout and swept by the Bills (WOO!), and yet they still own the six seed at this point. Strangely, a win over the Jets wouldn’t quite guarantee a playoff spot, as some tiebreakers are yet to be decided, but it would be likely. Let’s hope we did our part and the Dolphins miss out on the post-season.
18. St. Louis Rams (same): It’s not like beating the Bucs is an amazing feat, but now the Rams have a chance to finish the season 8-8. Their opponent? The Seahawks, who are coming off of a tough loss to the Cardinals. It won’t be easy for the Rams to defeat the Seahawks in Seattle, but the Cardinals proved that it can be done. What’s even more crazy is a win by the Rams would make the ENTIRE NFC West finish without a losing record. This has happened six times since the 2002 divisional realignment, but it’s still pretty impressive.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1): The Steelers just beat the Packers, and they’ll likely beat the Browns, but an 8-8 record most likely won’t cut it this year. Technically the Steelers have a shot, but it would require all the other AFC Wild Card contenders to fall apart. Not likely.
20. New York Jets (+1): The Jets are out of the playoff running, but they can definitely play spoiler by defeating the Dolphins. Something tells me that this is something the Jets would love to do. The only issue here is that the Jets haven’t won two games in a row all season. Can we expect them to break that trend in the final week of the season?
21. Buffalo Bills (+2): Sure, Buffalo’s season is over, but the team has a chance to do a few great things with a win over the Patriots this Sunday. First, we could be 7-9, which is the best the Bills have done since 2008. Second, we could end up with the best divisional record in the AFC East, going 4-2 in the division. Third, we could give the Patriots their first home loss of the season AND cause them to lose their first round bye. Here’s to hoping that the Bills shock the Pats.
22. Detroit Lions (-5): The Lions have fallen far since being the favorites to win their division. Now they’re down and out, and their game against the Vikings is meaningless. I’m interested to see how this team changes in the off-season.
23. New York Giants (+2): I’d like to give the Giants a pass on this season. They’ve definitely improved as the season wore on, winning 6 of 9 games after starting 0-6. Also, those first 6 losses were all against teams that are still competing for the playoffs in Week 17, so that’s saying something. The Giants would be happy to squash the Redskins though, knowing that the Redskins’ first round pick in the draft goes to the Rams.
24. Tennessee Titans (+4): Yay, the Titans can beat bad teams! They sure can’t beat many good ones. There’s a lot for the Titans to look forward to, as they’re clearly building a decent team. Some slots still need to be filled, though. They shouldn’t have trouble against the Texans as they wrap up their season.
25. Cleveland Browns (-3): The Browns continue to slip, and they looked pretty awful against the Jets last week. The one thing they can hold onto is their chance to derail any hope that the Steelers have for a playoff spot. Oh, and pretty good draft position too. That’s nice.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2): The Bucs really started turning heads a few weeks ago, but now we’re back to acknowledging how bad they really are. It would be a VERY tall order to expect them to beat the Saints this week. The Cardinals will certainly be rooting for them.
27. Minnesota Vikings (-1): The Vikings are in the basement of the worst division in the NFC, and that’s pretty bad. It’s especially bad when the Vikings managed a playoff berth last year. The difference? Defense. Oh, and Adrian Peterson not running for 2,000 yards.
28. Atlanta Falcons (-1): Considering the Falcons have a franchise QB, and possibly a top-5 draft pick, look for a turnaround in 2014. They could also take some pride in hurting the Panthers’ playoff seeding if they can win on Sunday.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (same): Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the basement. The Jaguars have so much wrong with them at this stage, I don’t know what they’ll do in the draft. All we know is they’ll have a high pick. I’d love to see them put up a good fight against the Colts, but it’s hard to imagine.
30. Oakland Raiders (same): Here’s another team with TONS wrong with it. I can’t imagine the Raiders are happy to be closing their season against the Broncos. On the bright side, the Broncos might rest some starters in the second half.
31. Washington Redskins (same): These guys can’t make it much worse, can they? Not only are they the worst team in the NFC, but they’re likely giving a top-3 pick to the St. Louis Rams next year. Hey, this seems like as good a time as any to get that pesky name-change done, right?
32. Houston Texans (same): Amazingly, the Texans might manage a win this week against the Titans. That could also push them out of the top pick next year, but I doubt those players will treat this game any differently. I’d actually like to see the Texans close the season on a high point, because right now I just feel bad for them.