Saturday, 29 December 2012

NFL Power Rankings: Week 17

**As always a reminder that my power rankings are not based on who I think is going to win the Super Bowl, but who would be most dangerous to play in week 17. Look out for my SB rankings next week, plus end of season grades for every team.**

1.            Denver Broncos 12-3 (U1)
Denver comfortably beat Cleveland as expected, and move up to the number one slot. 10 games unbeaten is impressive despite their weak schedule, and there’s no reason why they shouldn't make it 11 with a visit from the Chiefs this weekend. The best team in the league is a tumultuous thing to try and pin down, but right now Manning and the Broncos have as good a claim as anyone.

2.            Seattle Seahawks 10-5 (U5)
It’s almost the end of the season, and time to put my money where my mouth is with the Hawks. I've been ahead of the curve in their support all year so it’s only fitting I jump them up to Silver going into the final week. They just smashed the 49ers, and boast a ‘conservative’ run based offense that has put up 40+ points the last few weeks. If there are any Seattle (or Wilson) doubters left, I’d like to hear from them. More plus points are Sherman has just won his appeal and they host the Rams next.

3.            Atlanta Falcons 13-2 (U2)
The Falcons have been in and amongst the top 5 all year, so I think #3 is a fair assessment of where they are now. They’ve just had dominant wins over NY and Detroit and should feel quietly confident going into their final game against Tampa having already secured the #1 seed (they may well rest their stars in this game, so this and all my rankings assume teams field full squads).

4.            New England Patriots 11-4 (D1)
The Pats drop a spot after a lack-lustre win over Jacksonville. They had better hope their last 2 performances have been a blip rather than a slump with the play-offs looming, but are still one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Hosting Miami next should be a relaxed ramp up to the post-season.

5.            Green Bay Packers 11-4 (U1)
The Packers blow out the Titans, moving up to #5. Nothing more needs to be said about A-Rod and co., other than that they are blooming at exactly the right time. They've secured their division and will have all eyes on their post-season chances.

6.            San Francisco 49ers 10-4-1 (D5)
I feel like I'm being a little harsh dropping the Niners this far, as I still think they are one of the most complete teams in the league. However there is no denying how one-sided that loss to Seattle was, and they will be counting their luck they only have to beat the Cardinals this weekend to wrap up the West.

7.            Houston Texans 12-3 (D3)
Similar to SF, the Texans are a team that should be higher on this list, but after getting beat by the Vikings (and not even by AP especially) there’s no way I can justify it. Things don’t get much easier for them with a trip to fortress Indianapolis next.

8.            Washington Redskins 9-6 (-)
The Redskins win again, but I can’t move them up due to the quality above. All they need do now is beat Dallas and the NFC East is theirs, a feat that seemed almost impossible only a month or so ago. Hats off the RG3 for making this dramatic turnaround possible.

9.            Cincinnati Bengals 9-6 (-)
Cincy also grab a crucial win to secure their post-season berth at the cost of Pittsburgh. Impressive stuff from the young team, who will be hopeful they can ride a ferocious defence all the way in the style of last year’s eventual champion. Facing off with the Ravens next is a tough but ultimately fairly meaningless encounter for them.

10.         Baltimore Ravens 10-5 (U4)
The Ravens dominate the Giants and will be thankful to put their bad run of form behind them, securing the AFC North in the process. This is still a team stacked with talent, but there are doubts in my mind as to whether Flacco can get it done when the chips are down.

11.         Indianapolis Colts 10-5 (-)
Indy win another come from behind victory, and whilst Luck’s risky play has cost him the pro-bowl and probably ROTY contention, but I'm sure Colts fans will gladly take it. They close against Houston in a potential statement game.

12.         Dallas Cowboys 9-6 (D1)
The Cowboys narrowly lose to New Orleans in OT, but it was one that could have gone either way so won’t feel too disheartened. They can win the East with a victory over the Redskins (and a little help).

13.         Chicago Bears 9-6 (-)
The Bears smash the Cardinals and keep their play off hopes alive. I think they are the most likely recipient of the second NFC Wild Card spot at this stage, but need to beat Detroit (and get some help) to ensure this.

14.         Minnesota Vikings 9-6 (U1)
The Vikings shocked the league with an upset over Houston. They’ll need more of the same magic to beat Green Bay and claim a Wild Card spot, but with Adrian Peterson needing a huge game (208 yards) to break the rushing record anything is possible.

15.         New York Giants 8-7 (D3)
The Giants suffer a second big defeat on the trot, and have everything stacked against them to achieve January football. Eli is proving he is far from Elite (as I've always suspected), but could still make it in with a belated Christmas miracle, starting with a win over Philly.

16.         New Orleans Saints 7-8 (U1)
The Saints squeeze by the Cowboys, and are in my mind the best team to be eliminated from post-season contention. They’ll be working on reclaiming their elite status next season, starting with a long look at that defence. Next up though is the Panthers, who are riding their own hot streak.

17.         Pittsburgh Steelers 7-8 (D1)
The Steelers lose to Cincy and are done. They haven’t looked the same since Big Ben got hurt (even on his return they’ve been very sub-par), so at this stage will just be hoping they can discover the fountain of youth before the 2013 season. They won’t miss out on a chance to recover some pride by beating up on Cleveland this week, though.

18.         Carolina Panthers 6-9  (U1)
Like the Saints the Panthers are finishing strongly, but have left it far too late to have a chance of the play-offs. Still, with some personnel trimming on both their roster and in the front office they will be hopeful of carrying their good form over to the new season. A win over the Saints would be a nice send off.

19.         St. Louis Rams 7-7-1 (U3)
The Rams have been maddeningly inconsistent this year, but with a nice win over Tampa they will be pleased to have a shot at a winning season. Seattle are a not insubstantial roadblock in their path, however.

20.         Miami Dolphins 7-8 (D2)
The Dolphins beat Buffalo fairly comfortably, but with a trip to NE next they may have to resign themselves to 7-9. Still, it’s a lot better than I anticipated for the young squad.

21.         Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-9 (-)
The Buccs lose convincingly, but don’t drop any further because let’s face it everyone from here on down has been pretty atrocious lately. San Diego could have a case for being ranked above them, but I’ll stick with the Buccs (even if they are playing the Falcons next).

22.         San Diego Chargers 6-9 (U3)
The Chargers demolish the Jets, leaving fans wondering where this level of play has been hiding all year. Thankfully it’s too little too late to save Norv (and hopefully AJ Smith to boot), as even a 60 burger over Oakland this weekend won’t satisfy Chargers’ supporters blood-lust.

23.         Arizona Cardinals 5-10 (D3)
Arizona lose, again. Their defence is still outstanding, but as we all know they have the worst QB situation in the league (yes, even worse than Sanchez). It won’t get any prettier with a trip to Candlestick this weekend.

24.         Detroit Lions 4-11 (D1)
The Lions are the best team down here, and Megatron is proving how good he really is by smashing both the NFL receiving record and the madden curse simultaneously (I hope he doesn’t break his neck now). They just don’t win enough games though, and Chicago will likely be another loss on Sunday.

25.         Cleveland Browns 5-10 (D1)
The Browns predictably lose to Denver, but have had a hopeful season despite their record. It probably won’t save Shurmur’s job though.
26.         Buffalo Bills 5-10 (-)
The Bills lose to the Dolphins, but from here on in my rankings are stagnant. This isn’t laziness (probably), I just think I got it spot on last week, and as they all lost they haven’t shown me anything to prove me wrong! The Bills face off with the Jets this week, in what should be one for the ages…

27.         New York Jets 6-9 (-)
It’s pretty much all doom and gloom for the Jets right now – they are in a financial bind over the Sanchise and have some tough decisions to make internally shortly. On the field, they play Buffalo next, which should be equally ugly.

28.         Oakland Raiders 4-11 (-)
The Raiders lose to the Panthers, convincingly. Oakland definitely have the potential to be better than they are, but have so many holes on their roster they can’t give what talent they have a chance to shine. Next up is the Chargers in what is always a spirited affair despite what’s at stake.

29.         Tennessee Titans 5-10 (-)
The Titans got blown out by Green Bay last weekend and although they’ve impressed at times this year, it’s been a torrid season. Next they face Jacksonville in one literally nobody will ever watch.

30.         Philadelphia Eagles 4-11 (-)
The Eagles are far more talented than their record suggests, and with Vick set to start this weekend vs the Giants they could cause an upset. It's unlikely though, as they've turned the ball over at seemingly every opportunity this season.

31.         Jacksonville Jaguars 2-13 (-)
The Jags have drafted incredibly poorly in recent years, helping explain their perennial bottom-feeder status. The Titans are up next (see above).

32.         Kansas City Chiefs 2-13 (-)
Kansas just have to hold on one more week to claim the Double Coverage wooden spoon!* As they are playing the Broncos, I think it could well be a done deal.

*Sorry Romeo (and Neo), there is no spoon.

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