NFL Power Rankings – Week 14

December 02, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

The top eleven teams in last week’s power rankings all remained in the top 11 this week, as all still seem to be pretty clearly in control of their own playoff destinies. The 12th spot, for now, goes to the Vikings who are on an impressive run, and now find themselves in the driver’s seat for the NFC North.

 

There may be a few noteworthy suspensions handed down in the next week or so, which could have a dramatic impact on the playoff races as the final quarter of the season unfolds. Also, because of the relative assuredness of the playoff picture at this early stage in the season, how teams are able to manage staying focused and staying healthy in the teams’ final meaningless games should have a lot of impact of the playoff picture, even after the pairings are locked in early.

 

Admittedly, Atlanta should probably be at 12 in this week’s rankings instead of 10, with both Denver and Minnesota holding on to stronger playoff hopes at this time. For Atlanta, it seems that the division is out of the question, and it’s wildcard or bust, with the Cowboys still very much on their heels. I just didn’t have the heart to drop Atlanta 2 spots after an impressive road win on the left coast. They’ve definitely been the toughest team to grade out over the course of the season so far. They deserve their respect, there’s no questioning that, but their playoff hopes are still very fragile at this point.

 

NFL Power Rankings Archive3- 4567 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13

 

Week 14 NFL Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. New York Giants (1) – 11-1 – The Giants have easily been the most impressive team in the league so far, and appear to be without weakness. Even with the uncertain future of Plaxico Burress in New York, experts seem reluctant to concede that this will even be an issue for the Giants. Their schedule is full of tough teams from here out, but the Giants already enjoy a 2 game lead for the #1 seed in the NFC, a 3 game lead in their division, and a four game lead over Minnesota and Arizona for a first round bye. Next Week: vs. PHI

 

2. Tennessee Titans (2) – 11-1 – A Thanksgiving Day chance to feast on the Lions was probably the perfect remedy for Tennessee team that had lost it’s first game of the season the week before, and who had struggled to run for the last 3 weeks. The Browns and Texans in the next 2 games will probably either wrap up home field for the Titans, or make their week 16 match up with Pittsburgh for potential home field advantage. Also depending on what the rest of the AFC does in the meantime, Tennessee could have a chance to ruin Indy’s playoff hopes before they get started in week 17. Next Week: vs. CLE

 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3) – 9-3 – At 9-3, the Steelers have been a tough draw for everyone that they’ve played. You may not be able to say that about any other team in the league this season. The Steelers have positioned themselves for a chance at a bye in the playoffs, and with a game remaining against the Titans, they’re still in striking distance for the #1 seed, if the Titans should stumble, or let up down the stretch. Next Week: vs. DAL

 

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) – 9-3 – They’ve had a revolving door at quarterback and running back, and they’re playing a first place schedule, in the toughest division in the NFC, possibly the toughest in the NFL. The Bucs though, still find themselves in the driver’s seat for not only the NFC South title, but also a first round bye. They may not enjoy the cushion in the standings that they probably should at 9-3, and still have 2 tough divisional games on the road. But for now at least, the road to the NFC South title goes through Tampa. Next Week: @ CAR

 

5. Carolina Panthers (7) – 9-3 – If the Buccaneers are feeling salty about their relatively unsecured playoff hopes, despite their 9-3 record, than the Panthers have to feel outright frustrated with their standing in the playoff hunt, despite their strong performance thus far. A chance to beat Tampa head to head this week still leaves the Panthers somewhat in control of their own playoff destiny, but they’ll likely have to win out to have a chance at staying home for a playoff game. Next Week: vs. TB

 

6. Arizona Cardinals (6) – 8-4 – I’ve been feeling the need to justify ranking these Cards so highly all season, but even as the losers of 2 straight, the Cardinals are not a team that you want to sleep on. They’re still just an eyelash away from clinching the NFC West and at least one home playoff game. They’re also just one game behind Tampa and Carolina for a first round bye. In the playoffs, the Cards at home could be dangerous, especially if an east coast team has to travel to Arizona. Keep in mind that 3 of the Cards’ 4 losses came on trips to the east coast, the other was at home to the Giants. They’re front 7 is grossly underrated by most, and their running game still has a chance to get in gear. They’re unlikely to go across the country and beat anyone, but traveling to Arizona for a playoff game could be a lot tougher than it sounds. Next Week: vs. ST.L

 

7. New York Jets (4) – 8-4 – Success appeared to get to the Jets’ heads a bit last week, and they looked about as bad as they possibly could, just a week after dismantling the undefeated Titans. Brett Favre has been a rousing success for the Jets this season; clearly their playoff hopes would have been slim without him. But once the playoffs get here, I think that the Jets will have trouble finding their identity, a game manager would probably fit their formula a little better than a game breaker. Still, when the playoffs come around, there are few who can bring more experience to the table than Favre. The AFC East is still a dogfight, and with 2 west coast trips remaining, the Jets still have their work cut out for them in just getting to the playoffs. Next Week: @ SF

 

8. Indianapolis Colts (8) – 8-4 – If you took a poll among the AFC contenders and asked which team they’d most like to eliminate before the playoffs begin, my guess is that the Colts would be the team that’d be out. With that said, it appears that the rest of the AFC has missed their chance to bury these Colts when they were on the ropes early on. It’s still tough to imagine the Colts making a long run in this year’s playoffs, primarily because of their inability to stop the run. They can however, stop the run with their offense, in a manner of speaking, by jumping on opponents early in games and forcing them to play catch-up. The schedule looks like it could be pretty easy for the Colts from here, but don’t overlook their week 17 match up against Tennessee just yet. If Tennessee slips up and Pittsburgh keeps rolling, the Titans may need that one for the top seed. And if the Colts slip, just a bit in the meantime, the Titans may have a chance to send them home before the playoffs begin. I’m not so sure the Titans take that one off like everyone seems to think. Next Week: vs. CIN

 

9. Baltimore Ravens (9) – 8-4 – They’ve certainly been a great story so far, and the Ravens are starting to look more and more dangerous with each passing week. Their defense has adjusted to a lack of star power in the secondary, and despite the dominance of the run defense, the Ravens aren’t letting much go through the air either. Losses to Indianapolis and the Giants have shown that this team isn’t built for playing catch up, but with new wrinkles and guys stepping up every week, this team still appears to be growing into their prowess. The playoffs are by no means assured just yet, but they’re in sight. And the AFC North title could still be in the fold too. Next Week: vs. WAS

 

10. Atlanta Falcons (10) – 8-4 – The Falcons have taken the NFL by storm, but when it comes to their own division, not so much. There’s no shortage of storylines surrounding the Falcons this season. From moving forward without their jailed franchise quarterback, to finding a diamond in the rough in Matt Ryan; from being stepped out on by Bobby Petrino, to the meteoric rise of rookie head coach Mike Smith; this team is full of great stories. If they aren’t able to hold serve in their final four games however, the story will be about this miraculous rebound falling short of the post season. Someone with 10 or even 11 wins is likely to be left home in the NFC this season; Falcons fans are hoping that it’s not them. Next Week: @ NO

 

11. Denver Broncos (11) – 7-5 – The Broncos went a long way to locking up a playoff berth in week 13, and are quietly building a little head of steam too. If things keep going the way that they are, the Broncos could be looking at a first round match up with Indianapolis. They’ve had a couple of embarrassing post season blowouts at the hands of the Colts in recent years, but may be better equipped to go up and down the field with them this time around. Unless they can figure out how to play consistent defense, the Broncos will likely be short for the playoffs, but as long as their offense remains explosive, they should make it exciting while they’re in there. Next Week: vs. KC

 

12. Minnesota Vikings (16) – 7-5 – In yet another division where no one seems to be able to step up and grab hold of a playoff spot, the Vikings may be peaking at just the right time. Their two-headed backfield and stout defense could prove to be a formula for success once the post season rolls around too. The Vikings still have a very deep interest in pending suspensions of a number of key players, but are in good position for the playoffs despite a number of early season mishaps. Next Week: @ DET

 

13. New England Patriots (14) – 7-5 – The Patriots playoff hopes took a major shot on Sunday with their loss to the Steelers. They’re still very much in the hunt, and because of their experience and coaching have to be considered dangerous, but the Patriots have their work cut out for them too. Next up for the Pats are 2 straight games on the west coast, which has confounded a number of teams. The Jets did them a favor though by not taking advantage of a chance to bury them a little further in the AFC East last week too. Next Week: @ SEA

 

14. Dallas Cowboys (15) – 8-4 – The Cowboys look like they’re back in stride, the question now is, whether they’ll have enough time to make themselves a factor in the race for the playoffs. Their midseason stumble allowed a number of teams to pick up positions on them, but they’re not out of it quite yet. Games against playoff contenders in 3 of their remaining 4 will make the road bumpy, and the fact that two of them are from the AFC means that winning them doesn’t necessarily guarantee the reward of moving up in the standings. Next Week: @ PIT

 

15. Miami Dolphins (17) – 7-5 – I’m still not sure that people have started taking the Dolphins seriously just yet, and with the difficulty that they had in dealing with St. Louis on Sunday, I can understand why. One thing’s for sure though, opponents who’ve gone against Miami and given less than their best have paid the price this season. The Dolphins are more than flash and gimmick, they’re a pretty good football team, and they’re getting better too. They’ll need some help to get into the playoff hunt, but they still look like a factor at this point. Next Week: @ BUF *in Toronto

 

16. Washington Redskins (12) – 7-5 – It looks like the Redskins may have taken a couple of teams by surprise, especially with their improved offense early in the season. In recent weeks however, teams look less apt to let down for Washington, and they also appear to have adjusted to the Redskins new look on offense. Losing 3 of their last 4 has given a serious blow to the Redskins playoff hopes, and the schedule won’t make it any easier finishing up. They’re still in the hunt it seems, but fading fast. Next Week: @ BAL

 

17. Chicago Bears (13) – 6-6 – On one hand, you could say that the Bears let a golden opportunity pass them by against the Vikings in week 13. On the other hand however, you could say that the Bears never really looked like they belonged in the game in the first place. After playing everyone tough through the first 9 weeks of the season, the Bears have been blown out twice by divisional foes in recent weeks. Matt Forte has probably been too much of the offense this season, and looks to be hitting the rookie wall. Next Week: vs. JAX

 

18. New Orleans Saints (20) – 6-6 – Given the number of injuries that the Saints have been forced to deal with, and the tough games that they allowed to get away in weeks 2 and 3, they could consider themselves lucky to be at .500 with 4 games to go. When you look at the rest of the division staring squarely down at them in the rankings however, these Saints look like they’ll be playing for Dan Marino’s passing record, and something positive to carry into next season. The playoffs are pretty much out of the question for this bunch, but they could still affect the race. Next Week: vs. ATL

 

19. San Diego Chargers (19) – 4-8 – The Chargers playoff hopes are alive by the slimmest of margins, and fading quickly. It seems that week after week we look at the Chargers as a team with the potential of getting on a roll. The luxury of playing in the AFC West has kept them in the hunt for much longer than they probably deserve, and technically they could still get in. But the Broncos appear to be on somewhat of a roll lately, and the Chargers still haven’t been able to get things going. Next Week: vs. OAK

 

20. Buffalo Bills (18) – 6-6 – This season for the Bills will be one for the history books for sure. In addition to breaking new ground with a regular season game in Toronto, the Bills have gone from cruising to control of the AFC East early on, to a tail spinning mess of a team that has fallen into last place in the division that they controlled just a few weeks ago. It’ll take a miracle to rescue the Bills season, and  their playoff hopes with just 4 games remaining. Based on the way that they’ve played lately, simply holding up their own end of the bargain and winning out would be a minor miracle. Next Week: vs. MIA *in Toronto

 

21. Philadelphia Eagles (22) – 6-5-1 – Donavan McNabb responded to his benching in a big way with a Thanksgiving Day rally last week. Or maybe he just responded to a chance to play against a pretty bad Cardinals pass defense, traveling across the country in a short week. The Eagles are doing what they can to salvage a respectable record this season, but aside from a one-week infusion of confidence from beating the Steelers, the Eagles have never really presented themselves as a team that could be a factor in the playoff race. Next Week: @ NYG

 

22. Green Bay Packers (21) – 5-7 – Much like the Dow-Jones, the Packers have been either alarmingly good, or alarmingly bad from game to game, without any real warning. You truly never know which Packers team is going to show up from game to game, or as they proved last week, from quarter to quarter or even drive to drive. If the Jets make a sustained run into the playoffs, while the Packers are sitting home this post season, Ted Thompson may need to hire private security. (That is if he hasn’t already.) Next Week: vs. HOU

 

23. Houston Texans (23) – 5-7 – Media and PR types will try to come up with lots of reasons to make you believe that a lot of teams have the potential to be good really soon. When it comes to the Texans, they might be right. They’ve dealt with a considerable amount of adversity this season off of the field, and have had to struggle with injuries and a difficult schedule on the field too. Still, this week showcased a number of teams who look like they’ve already mailed in their seasons, and the Texans aren’t one of them. In fact they exposed one on Monday night against the Jags. Next Week: @ GB

 

24. San Francisco 49ers (27) – 4-8 – Mike Singletary has certainly made his impression on the Niners’ locker room, they’ve won 2 of their last 4, and showed well in a Monday night loss to Arizona. Clearly this team needs a pretty drastic overhaul in order to be competitive, but they’ve got some of the pieces in place already, Singletary looks like he may be one of them. Let’s not forget that they’re in the NFC West too, they could be closer than it seems to making a run at that division. Next Week: vs. NYJ

 

25. Cleveland Browns (26) – 4-8 – The Browns’ season may have been over before it began. Braylon Edwards was never able to establish a rhythm in the offense, Kellen Winslow Jr. has struggled to stay in the lineup, and Donte Stallworth was probably never really a good fit for this team, especially without Joe Jureviscius. The monumental letdown that the Browns have been overall, will probably steal some attention from the fact that their defense is vastly improved over last season. Their season is over now, but don’t sleep on these Browns for next year, they look like they have something that they can build on. Next Week: @ TEN

 

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (24) – 4-8 – The Jags are easily the most disappointing story of the season so far. There have been other teams that have failed to live up to high expectations, but few seem to have been as relatively healthy as Jacksonville. It looks like a slow start to the season derailed the Jags playoff hopes, and their hearts as well. They’re much too talented to be playing the way that they are, this team and its coaches should be outright embarrassed, on Monday night, they were. Next Week: @ CHI

 

27. Kansas City Chiefs (30) – 2-10 – Despite their 2-10 record, it’s not like these Chiefs are wasting a ton of young talent. To their credit, they have proven to be a handful for most opponents, but are simply overmatched on most Sundays. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they don’t appear to have a lot of pieces in place to build around at this point either. At least they continue to play determined football. That at least, is a testament to Herm Edwards and the veterans on this team. Next Week: @ DEN

 

28. Oakland Raiders (25) – 3-9 – Fresh off of a stunning victory against Denver in week 12, the Raiders appeared to be set up for a mini win streak with the Chiefs on tap last week. Things didn’t work out that way however, and despite the flashes of talent that the Raiders youngsters have shown, they can’t seem to keep it together consistently at this point. Given the coaching carousel in Oakland in recent years, it’s no wonder consistency is an issue. Next Week: @ SD

 

29. Seattle Seahawks (28) – 2-10 – It seems that Mike Holmgren’s decision to take a year away from football may have inspired the Seahawks in an unexpected way. The team it seems has decided to take this season off, and Jim Mora may be wondering just what it is that he signed on for. Next week: vs. NE

 

30. St. Louis Rams (31) – 2-10 – Without their once vaunted offensive attack, the Rams leave a lot to be desired all the way around. They have some offensive talent, but can’t seem to keep them healthy, or to find a rhythm when they are healthy. It appears that the head coach wasn’t all that was wrong with the Rams this season, but it is the NFC West; so next year is still bright. Next Week: @ AZ

 

31. Cincinnati Bengals (29) – 1-9-1 – They found a pulse momentarily this season, but the Bengals look like another team that simply cashed it in when the odds stacked up against them early on. The Bengals, at this point appear to be in need of a major overhaul, both on and off of the field. Whether they’ll finally figure that out or not is another question altogether though. Unfortunately for the fans in Cincinnati, much like those in Oakland, you can’t fire the owner. Next Week: @ IND

 

32. Detroit Lions (32) – 0-12 – Even if they wind up winless, the Lions may be better off for the future than a lot of teams in the bottom third of this list. They have Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith to build around on offense. Their defense is actually much better than it’s been in recent years, which still leaves lots of room to grow, but is progress none the less. They’re poised to walk away with the number one pick in the draft, and could trade that back for more picks if they’d like. The boatload of picks that they got from the Cowboys, plus whatever they do with their own picks could make the rebuilding effort a lot quicker than you’d expect. And these are no longer Matt Millen’s Lions. Next Week: vs. MIN

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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