NFL Power Rankings: Week 17
Eureka! A Christmas miracle! Indianapolis (No. 31) no longer occupies the rankings cellar, trading spots with the Rams (No. 32) by virtue of its second win in a row over a quality opponent, the Texans (No. 11). Elsewhere in the league, several teams that rose from obscurity prior to this weekend to “enter their names in the playoff race” bowed out quietly: Seattle (No. 18), Arizona (No. 19) and San Diego (No. 20).
1. Green Bay Packers (14-1); (Last week: 1)
Stat of the Week I: Aaron Rodgers made his loudest claim yet to repeat as league MVP on Sunday Night Football. Five touchdown passes put him in elite company with Tom Brady and Dan Marino as the only players to have at least ten three-TD games in a season (both won the award).
Stat of the Week II: The Pack are 14-1 despite giving up more yards on defense (6,010) than they have gained on offense (5,932).
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 (12-3); (3)
David Akers kicked himself into the history books and possibly the 49ers into a first round bye. With four field goals to beat Seattle he now has a record 42 for the season. San Fran locks up the two seed with a win at St. Louis this week.
4. New England Patriots (12-3); (4)
New England showed it still knows how to make mid-game adjustments after going in to halftime down 17-0 to the Dolphins and scoring on five consecutive second half possessions to lock up a top two seed in the AFC.
Stat of the Week: Tom Brady tied Rich Gannon for the most 300-yard games in a season by a quarterback 34 years or older with his tenth.
5. Baltimore Ravens (11-4); (5)
Ray Lewis and the Ravens finish 8-0 at home for the first time ever. A win at Cincinnati next week gives Baltimore the AFC North crown. The AFC’s top seed is also theirs if New England loses its finale at Buffalo.
6. Atlanta Falcons (9-5); (7)
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.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4); (8)
Pittsburgh did the right thing in sitting Roethlisberger, and it paid off. Charlie Batch deserves props for stepping in and stepping up at 37 years of age. The Steelers still have a shot at the division and a first round bye, but need some help from Baltimore.
8. Detroit Lions (10-5); (9)
Hats off to Detroit, who locked up their first playoff appearance in the new millennium by beating San Diego. Matt Stafford set the single-season record for passing yards by a Lions quarterback with 4,518 and a week left in the season. The Lions can elevate to the fifth seed and a matchup with the NFC East winner with a win and a Falcons loss this week.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6); (13)
If you haven’t watched Jerome Simpson’s Play of the Year at least 17 times do yourself a favor and put it on repeat. The Bengals control their wild card destiny at home in the final contest against Baltimore.
10. New York Giants (8-7); (14)
With a big victory over the Jets, the G-Men appear to have the momentum heading into their Week 17 win-and-you’re-in showdown against Dallas, who at best will have a banged up Romo under center.
11. Houston Texans (10-5); (6)
The TJ Yates-led Texans looked anything but playoff ready losing in the waning seconds of the game to one-win Indy. Houston has not put up more than 20 points in a game since Yates took over.
12. Dallas Cowboys (8-7); (11)
The outcome of the game against Philly was rendered meaningless when the Giants beat the Jets. It all comes down to Week 17, if Romo’s hand injury heals, that is.
13. Denver Broncos (8-7); (10)
“They are who we thought they were!”
14. New York Jets (8-7); (12)
Sexy Rexy Ryan had his own foot, not his wife’s, in his mouth Sunday when his Jets fell flat in the battle for the Big Apple after talking his team up the entire week. The Jets sit much further outside the playoff bubble than the one game deficit would suggest, needing losses from the Bengals, Titans and either the Raiders or Broncos to sneak in for the third consecutive year.
15. Oakland Raiders (8-7); (19)
In barely topping the Chiefs, Oakland took advantage of Jesus’ absence in Tim Tebow’s stinker against lowly Buffalo and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps into a tie for the AFC West. A win at home against San Diego, and some help from Kansas City against the Broncos would vault the up and down Raiders into the playoffs.
16. Tennessee Titans (8-7); (17)
A recovery victory over the Jaguars looks to be too little too late as the scenarios in which Tennessee makes the playoffs involve mandatory help from three other teams (Bengals, Jets, Raiders/Broncos).
17. Philadelphia Eagles (7-8); (20)
Philly is quietly putting together a strong finish to their season. In three straight victories the defense has given up just 36 points and 683 yards, while racking up 16 sacks.
18. Seattle Seahawks (7-8); (15)
San Francisco’s defense had not given up a rushing touchdown all season or allowed a 100-yard rushing performance since Week 11 of 2009 before facing the resurgent Marshawn Lynch (107 yards, 1 TD).
19. Arizona Cardinals (7-8); (16)
With the chance to play spoiler to Cincinnati, as well as secure at least a .500 record, Early Doucet made one of the Bloopers of the Year. Cringe-worthy stuff.
20. San Diego Chargers (7-8); (18)
San Diego had a chance to force a three-way tie atop the AFC West, and then they rolled over in Detroit to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Have we seen the last of Norv Turner in SoCal?
21. Carolina Panthers (6-9); (24)
Watching Cam Newton outrun Tampa’s entire defense on that gorgeous 49-yard touchdown scamper gave my goosebumps. Carolina is 4-1 in its last five tries.
Stat of the Week III: Cam broke Peyton Manning’s record for most passing yards by a rookie with 3,893 and one game left to play.
22. Buffalo Bills (6-9); (26)
Where was this production the last seven games? Buffalo produced two pick-sixes on back-to-back plays, CJ Spiller hit the century mark on the ground and special teams got in the action w ith a punt return touchdown.
23. Chicago Bears (7-7); (25)
Kahlil Bell showed flashes of brilliance against a weak Packer run defense, pounding and cutting his way to 121 rushing yards. Chicago may have its new third down back of the future.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (6-9); (22)
This loss to the Raiders was close but ugly. Kyle Orton killed two big drives with picks, one in the end zone. The defense had an interception wiped out by a penalty. Dwayne Bowe dropped a touchdown. Kansas City gets another chance to play spoiler against a division foe when they travel to Mile High this week.
25. Miami Dolphins (5-10); (21)
Miami played possibly its best and worst halves of football, in that order, in a losing effort against the Patriots. Reggie Bush continued his resurgence, topping the century mark for the fourth consecutive week with 113 yards on 22 carries for his first career 1,000 yard season.
26. Washington Redskins (5-10); (23)
One week Washington takes down division foe New York. The next, Sexy Rexy Grossman and the Redskins fall short against a Viking -team led by backups Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart. Bottom-of-the-barrel rookie runner Evan Royster was the lone bright spot, gaining 132 rushing yards on 19 carries for a team that lacks an identity.
27. Cleveland Browns (4-11); (27)
Watching the replay of Cleveland DT Phil Taylor jump offsides on fourth-and-2 with the Browns down by seven was painful, especially when everyone in the stadium knew that Baltimore had no intention of running a play.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11); (28)
MojoD added 103 rushing yards to his league-leading and career-high total of 1,437.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11); (29)
There isn’t much positive to take away from Tampa’s ninth loss in a row. LeGarrette Blount was benched for the first half after fumbling on the first play from scrimmage.
30. Minnesota Vikings (3-12); (30)
Condolences go out to Minnesota and Adrian Peterson, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL on a tackle that nearly made me lose my lunch. To make matters worse (or better), Christian Ponder was knocked out of the game with a concussion on the very next play. As I said last week: Free Joe Webb!
31. Indianapolis Colts (2-13); (32)
A week after getting off the schneid against Tennessee, Indy humbled playoff bound Houston and now finds itself tied for first in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
32. St. Louis Rams (2-13); (31)
In other news, St. Louis shut down Sam Bradford for the season.