NFL Power Rankings: Week 16
What a wild week in the NFL. The previously undefeated Packers (No. 1) and winless Colts (No. 32) no longer hold such titles. Two AFC heavyweights, Baltimore (No. 5) and Pittsburgh (No.8), packed light punches in losses on prime time. Three teams, the Seahawks (No. 15), Cardinals (No. 16) and Chargers (No. 18), entered their names late into the wild card races. Tim Tebow looked human. The NFC East made another complete 180-degree turn with Dallas (No. 11) and the Giants (No. 14) flip-flopping order in the standings. Oh joy!
1. Green Bay Packers (13-1); (Last week: 1)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Green Bay lost its bid for a perfect season. To accomplish that feat and win the Super Bowl would have required an unprecedented 25-0 run. The surprise is the party responsible for halting the Packers’ unbeaten run: Kyle Orton and the Chiefs. Repeat status went up in the air when two starting linemen went down with injuries.
2. New Orleans Saints (11-3); (2)
The first half wasn’t New Orleans’ prettiest, but the red-hot Saints settled down and quickly put the game out of reach in the third quarter to keep Atlanta two games back in the division.
Stat of the Week: Drew Brees threw his fifth touchdown of the game and was pulled in favor of his backup before Christian Ponder completed his fifth pass.
3. San Francisco 49ers (11-3); (5)
San Francisco showed up to play at Candlestick Park on Monday night. The defense harassed Ben Roethlisberger and his bad ankle all night, forcing three turnovers and a myriad of bad throws. Alex Smith made all the right decisions to keep Pittsburgh from getting back into this one.
4. New England Patriots (11-3); (4)
Tom Brady has a stockpile of weapons on par with Mother Russia. When Deion Branch is out and both Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski are held ineffective, Brady calls Aaron Hernandez’s name to the tune of nine catches for 129 yards and a score. New England did what Denver’s previous opponents could not, put the game out of reach before the clock hit Tebow Time.
5. Baltimore Ravens (10-4); (3)
Baltimore fell flat on national television. Ray Lewis’ return did little for the Ravens’ defense, which failed to force a turnover. Flacco was average in a game that required him to at least be good.
6. Houston Texans (10-4); (6)
Houston missed defensive coordinator Wade Phillips dearly this weekend. Its top-ranked defense failed to force a turnover in a winnable game that would have put the Texans alone in second place in the AFC.
7. Atlanta Falcons (9-5); (8)
Granted the opponent was Jacksonville, but, nonetheless, Atlanta put together its most complete effort of the season this week. Matt Ryan and Roddy White hooked up ten times for 135 yards and two scores. The defense forced three turnovers and put points on the board. Special teams came up with an early fumble recovery to set the tone.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4); (7)
Big Ben is tough; everybody knows it. But why did Mike Tomlin continually send him out on the field with one leg when the game was well out of reach in the fourth quarter? Pittsburgh dropped the ball on a chance to gain sole possession of the AFC North and a precious bye for Roethlisberger’s left ankle.
9. Detroit Lions (9-5); (11)
Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson returned to business as usual, hooking up nine times for 214 yards and a pair of scores in a quality comeback victory. Detroit now controls its playoff destiny for the first time in a long time.
10. Denver Broncos (8-6); (12)
Losing to New England means Denver now has Oakland and San Diego right on its heels. The Patriots offensive attack overcame a usually solid Bronco defense. Timmy Tebow could not do the same against a banged-up defense.
11. Dallas Cowboys (8-6); (13)
The NFC East is poised for another wild finish. Dallas put forth one of its best efforts of the season against Tampa Bay to re-assert itself on top of the Giants. All signs point to the week 17 showdown in New York.
12. New York Jets (8-6); (9)
Laying an egg this week against Philly means the Jets lose sole possession of the sixth seed in the AFC, now sharing that honor with Cincinnati.
Stat of the Week II: New York fell to 0-9 against the Eagles, the only franchise it has never beaten.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6); (15)
Were the opponent not St. Louis I would commend Cincinnati for showing serious maturation, overcoming last week’s tough loss to the Texans to bounce back and win. Regardless, the Bengals now find themselves tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Sensational rookie receiver A.J. Green topped 1,000 yards for the season.
14. New York Giants (7-7); (10)
Betting on teams in the NFC East has become extremely dangerous. A week after besting the Cowboys to pull ahead in the division the Giants get stomped by Washington, a team that had just one win in nine games. Week 17 against Dallas will be huge.
15. Seattle Seahawks (7-7); (17)
Caleb Hanie gifted Seattle with his worst performance yet. The Seahawks capitalized on short fields all game and never let Chicago into the red zone. With two games left and facing a two-game deficit in the wild card, Seattle will have to take this late-season success in stride as they transition to next year.
16. Arizona Cardinals (7-7); (18)
It would take a complete failure on behalf of either Atlanta or Detroit for the Cardinals to make the playoffs. Nonetheless, each win this season should have a big impact on Arizona’s mentality heading into the offseason.
17. Tennessee Titans (7-7); (14)
Not only are the Titans now on the outside looking in at the AFC playoffs, but they will be remembered most this season for rolling over and allowing Indianapolis to end its winless campaign.
18. San Diego Chargers (7-7); (19)
San Diego is trying to flip their normal script: instead of a late-season collapse to tumble out of the playoffs the Chargers are rising from the depths of the NFL’s forgotten bottom-feeders to contend for a postseason spot.
19. Oakland Raiders (7-7); (16)
Had Oakland not permitted Matthew Stafford to lead scoring drives of 71 and 98 yards in the final seven minutes of the game, they would be sitting atop the AFC West with the Broncos once again. But they did.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (6-8); (21)
LeSean McCoy set Eagles franchise records for most rushing (17) and most total touchdowns (20) in a season during Philly’s blowout of the Jets. The Eagles technically remain in the hunt for the division title, though it would take about six Christmas miracles to happen.
21. Miami Dolphins (5-9); (22)
Reggie Bush continued to impress, running for a career high 203 yards and moving within 27 yards of 1,000 on the season. Miami is now 5-2 in the last seven games since going 0-7 in the first seven.
22. Kansas City Chiefs (6-8); (24)
The most unlikely candidates to end the Packer Pursuit of Perfection, the Chiefs may have just done the rest of the league a disservice by removing any pressure Green Bay might have been feeling to go undefeated.
23. Washington Redskins (5-9); (25)
In picking off Eli Manning three times, controlling the clock and keeping the Giants out of the end zone until the final minute of the game, Washington looked more like the team fighting for a playoff spot in this contest.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-9); (26)
Four words: Annexation of Puerto Rico.
25. Chicago Bears (7-7); (20)
Sure, Marion Barber made two head-scratching mistakes to hand Denver the game on a platter, but why aren’t more people questioning Lovie Smith’s decision not to take a knee? Now I have to live with the fact that the Bears lost to Tim Tebow. Gross.
26. Buffalo Bills (5-9); (23)
Buffalo is now in a fight to avoid finishing last in the division after losing its seventh in a row to Miami. Ryan Fitzpatrick continued his run from hero to zero, throwing three more interceptions to guarantee the Bills a loss.
27. Cleveland Browns (4-10); (29)
Seneca Wallace and Greg Little connected on a 76-yard touchdown pass for the Browns’ longest play from scrimmage in four years. Peyton Hillis rushed for a season high 99 yards. Little positives to take from a tough overtime loss to the Cardiac Cardinals.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10); (27)
Just a week after hanging 41 on Tampa, the Jaguars surrender 41 to Atlanta in one of the year’s most thorough beatings. If Jacksonville management wasn’t convinced they need a high-profile quarterback in this year’s draft, they should be now.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10); (28)
Coach Raheem Morris could be on the outs after Tampa lost its eighth game in a row. The Bucs were outgained single-handedly by Tony Romo 249-190.
30. Minnesota Vikings (2-12); (30)
Free Joe Webb!
31. St. Louis Rams (2-12); (31)
In other news, St. Louis shut down Sam Bradford for the season.
32. Indianapolis Colts (1-13); (32)
Ending the winless season is even sweeter for Indianapolis knowing they seriously damaged the playoff hopes of division rival Tennessee in the process.