Season’s greetings! Christmas won’t cheer up the fan bases in the bottom tier of this week’s NFL Power Rankings. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for just about everyone (except the Cleveland Browns) as the draft process begins.
The Cleveland Browns probably will need a holiday miracle to secure a win in the next two weeks to avoid going 0-16. There is a new sheriff in town in the form of general manager. Unfortunately, the head coach appears to be set to return next year and chances are a new quarterback will be added to the infamous graveyard of quarterbacks.
The New York Giants are fighting hard down the stretch. There’s just too many injuries and lack of talent to secure another win. But, that may be a good thing. There will be a new head coach and new direction as they’ll destined to have a top-3 pick in next spring’s draft. The question is will Eli Manning be part of that new direction? The Indianapolis Colts can only hope that their new head coach in 2018 will have the luxury of Andrew Luck as his starting quarterback. A reported second surgery to his injured shoulder may complicate that notion. Meanwhile, Marvin Lewis appears on his way out as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. The question for them, is Andy Dalton going to be the quarterback?
DeAndre Hopkins could be the best wide receiver in the NFL. If only he had the opportunities and quarterback to maximize his talents. The Houston Texans‘ luck with quarterbacks have hampered the talented receiver’s career. He can only hope DeShaun Watson can return from his torn ACL, just as good as he was before the injury.
The Chicago Bears regressed last Saturday in their loss to the Detroit Lions. Remember, progression over wins is the key with their primed QB. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can only hope they stay in the top-7 of the draft order. Adding a Saquon Barkley at running back or Bradley Chubb at defensive end could make the world of difference. Meanwhile, so much for getting on that train of the Miami Dolphins. After their upset win over the Patriots, they came back to Earth with a let down loss at Buffalo.
Can you just imagine if the Denver Broncos had signed Case Keenum this past off-season? They may get a chance to get that re-do or better yet, grab Kirk Cousins. They’re the one team in the NFL, who could benefit the most from an upgrade at quarterback. The Arizona Cardinals are in the same boat as the Broncos. They’ll be in the market of quarterback this off-season. The question for them, go after Cousins or Keenum, or draft the future?
Derek Carr can now put the past two losses for the Oakland Raiders on his tab. If not for the Giants, could the Raiders be the league’s most disappointing team this season? The New York Jets are a vastly different team without Josh McCown at quarterback. Never in my right mind, could I imagine ever making that statement about McCown.
Jimmy Garoppolo was an early Christmas present for the San Francisco 49ers. Garoppolo is making GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan look like geniuses, as they traded for their franchise QB setting them up for a prosperous future. The Washington Redskins have reassumed the position as the best team in the NFL with a losing record. Injuries have decimated their season. Now the focus of the organization shifts back to the off-season. Will they pay Kirk Cousins? And if so, how will that affect them improving on their roster?
The Aaron Rodgers project was a one-and-done after the Green Bay Packers went down swinging against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. The loss coupled with Atlanta’s win on Monday night, eliminated the Packers from playoff contention. Effectively, the organization made the smart move of placing Rodgers back on injured reserve. Hard to imagine Green Bay not being a Super Bowl LIII contender. They’ve seemingly found their answers at RB. Health will be their biggest issue, as usual.
The Seattle Seahawks may have peaked, this season and beyond. After a blowout loss to the Rams that seemed to signal a change in the guards of the NFC West, it appears the Seahawks, that we grown to know, is imploding. Earl Thomas calling out the team’s decision to play the injured Bobby Wagner may have stamped such.
The Tennessee Titans are looking more and more like pretenders after back-to-back losses on the west coast to the Cardinals and 49ers — two teams eliminated from the postseason. Marcus Mariota has struggled mightily over the course of the past four weeks, averaging 183.5 yards and tossing a total of four touchdowns. He will have to be better or else the Titans may not be playing football in January.
The Baltimore Ravens got a perfect opponent to rebound from their devastating loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago in the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens have momentum, as that does not bode well for any other AFC team on the playoff bubble. The Dallas Cowboys could not have asked for any better to close out Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension with three straight wins. They are still in the playoff picture and have an imploding-Seattle Seahawks and the hapless New York Giants as their final two games. With a little help from the NFC South against Atlanta, Dallas could very well sneak into the postseason.
The Los Angeles Chargers suffered a huge setback losing to Kansas City. They had a great deal of momentum, but it appears the Chiefs have regained their wits. Once again, the Chargers could fade late.
The Detroit Lions seemed to be the forgotten team when discussing the postseason in the NFC. Yet, the Lions are right in the hunt at 8-6, one game back in the wild card race.
The Kansas City Chiefs appear done with their mid-season nap. Sunday’s win over the Chargers stamped the fact Kansas City seems re-energized for the close of the regular season and postseason. Back-to-back wins over their AFC West rivals have them in the driver’s seat towards winning the division.
The Buffalo Bills are entrenched in a race for one of the two wild card spots in the AFC with the Ravens and Titans. If going on merit, the Bills appear to be the best of the trio when Tyrod Taylor is under center. New England may have their number, but Buffalo would be a difficult out for the rest of the conference. The Atlanta Falcons are in the driver’s seat for what appears to be the final NFC wild card spot. However, back-to-back games against New Orleans and Carolina, who are both 10-4, to close out the season seems daunting even for the reigning NFC champions.
Now the cream of the crop. The top-8 teams remained the same with order 5-8 remaining the same as last week.
The Carolina Panthers got a big win over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The win puts them in the hunt of the NFC South division title. They have a golden opportunity this week that could see them in sole possession of first place. However, the biggest chatter about the Panthers this week has been the pending sale of team by owner Jerry Richardson, who agreed to put the team up for sale after damaging allegations of sexual harassment.
The New Orleans Saints must keep pace to stave off the Panthers and the lurking Falcons for the NFC South title. They’ll get their chance to push back the Falcons in their rematch on Sunday. It’s a must win or else the Saints will be behind the ball with Atlanta owning a tie-breaking sweep.
The Los Angeles Rams have officially asserted themselves as the new kings of the NFC West after their convincing win at Seattle. Now the Rams are just a win or Seattle loss away from being crowned division champs. The focus of just making the playoffs has now changed to trying to make a trip to the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles‘ first test with Nick Foles as QB turned out great for the offense. Foles tossed four touchdowns to four different receivers in their 34-29 win over the Giants last week. However, the defense has been torched for 811 yards the past two weeks. That’s more concerning for them than Foles.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may feel they were robbed by officials’ overturn of Jesse James’ catch/touchdown. But, the fact of the matter is they have lost to both New England and Jacksonville at home. If they are to get to Super Bowl LII, they’ll have to beat one or both teams. And it’s a chance both could be on the road, especially with Antonio Brown out the final two weeks with a calf injury.
The Minnesota Vikings got back on track with a win at home against Cincinnati. That came after playing five of six on the road with only one loss — to Carolina in Week 14. Looking at Minnesota’s schedule this season, they’ve played the who’s who. That’s why it’s no question they are the strongest team in a loaded NFC heading into the playoffs.
The New England Patriots continue to own the Steelers. Tom Brady doesn’t look so old after they rebounded from their loss in Week 14 against Miami. The Patriots are one win away from clinching home-field advantage in the AFC. That’ll be huge not just because they’ve been historically good at home in the playoffs, but avoiding a second trip to Pittsburgh or better yet forcing Jacksonville to travel up north to the cold in late-January may be more important.
Speaking of the Jacksonville Jaguars, they remain at the top for this week’s power rankings. The Jaguars are the best team in the NFL. They can run the football no matter who is in at RB. Blake Bortles may be trash but he’s been ample for the Jaguars, and that defense is lights out. Not sure if even the great Tom Brady can throw against the league’s best secondary or if that front-seven will give him the time to attempt to. Sure, it’s hard to fathom the Jaguars winning the AFC. That’s fine, suit yourself. This group has all the channeling of making a deep run at winning it all.