With playoff season fast approaching, the contenders are separating from the pretenders, and the bottom-dwellers are already thinking about the off-season. Two coaches have already been fired, and more will soon be following them (See: Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles). 19 teams are competing for 12 playoff spots, so the margin for error for those teams on the bubble is razor thin. With that in mind, here is where each team stands in this week’s edition of Power Rankings.
- New England Patriots (Record: 12-2)
Tom Brady did not complete a pass in the first quarter against the Broncos, but the Patriots still found a way to pull out an impressive win in Denver. Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia will have his pick of the litter when it comes to finding a head coaching job this Spring.
- Dallas Cowboys (12-2)
While Tony Romo may arguably have more upside, Dak Prescott’s 32-36 performance against the Bucs should pretty much lock-up his starting position for the rest of the season. Also, shout-out to the Cowboys scout team for plucking David Irving off of the Chiefs practice squad- he took over the fourth quarter defensively against the Bucs.
- Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)
They got an easy win against the Rams, but it should come with an asterisk given how much of an eyesore their neon color rush jerseys were. They should lock up the number two seed in the NFC.
- Oakland Raiders (11-3)
It wasn’t pretty against the Chargers, but they eaked out a very important in-division road win. If Derek Carr and Latavius Murray can take care of the rock, this is a dangerous team.
- New York Giants (10-4)
Don’t look now but the Giants have won 8 of 9 and still have a chance at the NFC East crown. Their defense led by Landon Collins will make some noise in the postseason.
- Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
They got a chance to flex their offensive muscle against the porous 49ers defense, but now they have to face a re-energized Panthers squad. With two more solid games Matt Ryan could ice a league MVP award.
- Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
The loss to the Titans is concerning, but the emergence of Tyree Hill gives the Chiefs something they’ve always been missing- a legitimate playmaker. Yet, the question remains- can Alex Smith carry a team to a Super Bowl?
- Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
They’re getting healthy at the right time, but their lack of production in the red zone against the Bengals is concerning. Hopefully for the Steelers this trend doesn’t continue in a huge game against the Ravens this week.
- Green Bay Packers (8-6)
It took a hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers to seal a victory against the Bears, but their offense looked good throughout the game and Aaron Rodgers has returned to form nicely. They control their own playoff destiny, and get a stumbling Vikings team this week.
- Miami Dolphins (9-5)
Matt Moore is 7-3 in his last 10 starts going back to 2011 when he was the Dolphins starter, and he is making the most of his opportunity after riding the pine for four years. This writer has always believed that Moore gave the Dolphins a better chance to win than Ryan Tannehill, and with a couple more solid performances Moore could earn himself a well-deserved payday this offseason.
- Detroit Lions (9-5)
They can hear the Packers’ footsteps and all of a sudden this looks like a team on the verge of a dramatic collapse. Matt Stafford’s injury is more serious than originally thought, and his MVP campaign has been derailed. They may not win another game.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6)
They lost, but with a loss by the Redskins they are still the NFC’s 2nd Wild Card team. A first round exit in the playoffs seems very likely.
- Tennessee Titans (8-6)
A win against a good Chiefs squad at Arrowhead is very impressive, and they look like a legitimate playoff team. Delanie Walker and DeMarco Murray are good enough to single-handedly win games for this team.
- Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
They have a great defense, but lack a true playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. Terrence West has shown flashes of being a difference maker, but that hasn’t panned out. They need to win this week against the Steelers to stay alive in the playoff race.
- Denver Broncos (8-6)
It’s ever a good sign when a team puts up just 3 points at home, and now there are reports of infighting between the offensive and defensive units in the locker room. In a tough AFC West, they appear to be the odd man out.
- Washington Redskins (7-6-1)
They choked again on a big prime time stage, and now their playoff hopes are on life support. There’s a lot that could be said about the dropped balls and inconsistent defensive play by this team, but Stephen A. Smith has the most entertaining take.
- Indianapolis Colts (7-7)
They thrashed a bad Vikings team, but now they face a tough Raiders team coming off a victory. This seems like a must-win game with the Titans playing the hapless Jaguars
- Carolina Panthers (6-8)
They won a big Monday night game and appear to be returning to 2015 form a bit too late. If they finish the season 8-8 it should help build momentum going into next year.
- Houston Texans (8-6)
It was heartbreaking to watch Brock Osweiler’s reaction as Texans fans openly cheered his benching, but it had to be done. Tom Savage may not be the answer, but he can’t be worse than Osweiler.
- New Orleans Saints (6-8)
After two TD-less games, Drew Brees exploded offensively against the Cardinals. Sean Payton’s tenure may be coming to an end, as he seems to be losing control over his team as evinced by Mark Ingram’s temper-tantrum on the sideline after not getting a goal-line carry.
- Minnesota Vikings (7-7)
Adrian Peterson’s return was uneventful and the Vikings losing trend continued. Sam Bradford is not their long-term answer at QB.
- Buffalo Bills (7-7)
This team is not as good as their record says, and both Rex Ryan and Tyrod Taylor will probably be victims of a massive overhaul this offseason. The latter may find employment, but the former will probably have to look elsewhere- perhaps ESPN?
- Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1)
A brutal roughing the passer penalty cost them a potential win against the Saints, but David Johnson was able to tie Edgerrin James’ record for consecutive 100-yeard game to start a season. He’ll look to break it next week.
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-9)
With nothing to lose, they went for a game-winning two-point conversion against the Ravens and failed, but the aggressiveness should be commended. This team needs to get Carson Wentz a legitimate WR if they want him to develop successfully.
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1)
Jeremy Hill’s terrible towel taunt didn’t cost the Bengals the game against the Steelers, the Bengals are just a bad team. This roster has talent, and they should be an attractive location for potential head coaches.
- San Diego Chargers (5-9)
Last week the Chargers implemented simulated crowd noise in preparation for a HOME game against the Raiders, proving that this team needs a new location. Without Keenan Allen, this team never had a chance this season, but the emergence of Joey Bosa is promising.
- Chicago Bears (3-11)
In consecutive weeks the Bears have been competitive against playoff-caliber teams, and aside from some atrocious picks Matt Barkley has played decently. Alshon Jeffrey scored a TD in his return last week, and needs to play well in the last two games of what has been an abysmal contract year.
- Los Angeles Rams (4-10)
We may never know the answer to the classic “immovable object versus unstoppable force debate,” but this week’s game between the Rams and 49ers may offer hints as it represents the exact opposite situation of a flimsy object versus a weak force. Something has to give when the struggling Todd Gurley meets a porous 49ers run defense that just got gashed by the Falcons.
- New York Jets (4-10)
They looked good for about a quarter against the Dolphins, but Bryce Petty was not good enough to compete. Now they face the grim prospect of having to start Ryan Fitzpatrick this week. What is the solution? Just hand the ball off to Bilal Powell every play and see what happens against the Patriots.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)
Blake Bortles told reporters before last week’s game that all the Jaguars think about during the week is the fourth quarter. It didn’t show against the Texans, and now Gus Bradley is gone.
- San Francisco 49ers (1-13)
It was almost pathetic watching their defense perform against the Falcons, but at least now they get to face the Rams whom they beat 28-0 in Week 1.
- Cleveland Browns (0-14)
RGIII had a couple of nice run plays against the Bills, but there was never any doubt that they would lose that game. If they want to avoid 0-16 they have to beat the Chargers this week, as they must face the Steelers in Week 17.