NFL Power Rankings Week 16
How do you gauge the most valuable player in a given sport?
For some, the MVP should simply be the best player. Period. If that is the case, then Patrick Mahomes should easily win the MVP this season. He is set to throw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns passes - both by far the top numbers in the league - while leading the Chiefs to a potential No. 1 seed in the AFC. Mahomes has done all this while making any number of jaw-dropping throws, and the kid clearly looks like the Next Big Thing in NFL quarterbacking.
For others, the MVP has a bit more of a qualitative aspect. There is a little more intangible to it. Drew Brees has fantastic numbers. He is completing 75 percent of his passes - which is insane - and he leads the NFL in quarterback ranking. He also set an NFL record this year for all-time passing yards. But Brees' impact on the Saints, who currently have the best record in football, can't just be broken down to the numbers. His leadership and savvy, on the field and within the organization, are just as important as his talent.
So how does one decide?
Mahomes is currently the favorite, by a pretty large margin, to win the award because of his prodigious talent and eye-popping numbers. BetOnline has Mahomes posted as a -200 favorite to win the award. However, I actually think there is some value on Brees, who is posted at +225. I don't think there is any question that Mahomes has been the best player. But Brees has never won an MVP. And if you don't think that media members and voters won't give him credit for his distinguished career then you are crazy.
There are still two weeks of action left. Mahomes faces a daunting task heading up to Seattle this weekend. And one sloppy showing could slow his momentum and bolster Brees' claim. The Saints have two more tricky games as well, hosting a motivated Steelers team this week before closing against a tough Carolina defense.
The books clearly fear a Mahomes landslide. But I still think that Brees offers far better value.
With that in mind, here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. New Orleans Saints (12-2) - How dumb can you be, Tommy Lee Lewis? His fumble near the goal line - when the Saints could've gotten a first down to win the game or at least kicked a field goal to go up six points - is one of the dumbest plays you will ever see in a football game. The Saints won the game in spite of that play. But anyone that had money on New Orleans had to cringe at that one.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) - Why the hell did Andy Reid call timeout with eight seconds left and the Chargers facing fourth-and-goal? There were just five seconds left on the play clock! Stuff like that is why I truly believe that Andy Reid will never win a Super Bowl. The man is as incompetent as any coach we've ever seen at handling game management.
3. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) - I loved the move by Anthony Lynn to go for the two-point conversion and the chance to win the game. That was absolutely the right call. That is now two absurd comebacks in three weeks for the Chargers, who rallied to win games after trailing by two touchdowns at Pittsburgh and at Kansas City. They are now 17-4 straight up in their last 21 regular-season games.
4. Los Angeles Rams (11-3) - I am not ready to completely jump off the bandwagon. But wow. This team has fallen apart on both sides of the ball. Sean McVay's decision to call a timeout prior to the two-minute warning in the first half against Philadelphia completely changed that game. Philly was just trying to limp into halftime. After McVay baited them with that timeout they got aggressive. And once they got aggressive, they never stopped being aggressive for the rest of the game.
5. New England Patriots (9-5) - It is not often that you see the Patriots completely implode and you see Tom Brady play like a total loser in the last five minutes of a game. But that's exactly what happened last Sunday. I am not jumping off the bandwagon yet, though. The Patriots have covered four straight against Buffalo, but the home team is just 7-20 ATS in the last 27 in this series.
6. Chicago Bears (10-4) - The Bears will have to avoid a major letdown situation this week. They clinched their first division title since 2010 and are headed back to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. They are coming off a win over their hated rivals and now need to travel across the country to face a tricky San Francisco team. The public will be all over the Bears this week, but this could be a tough spot for them, mentally.
7. Houston Texans (10-4) - Allowing 52 sacks just isn't going to cut it. Houston's offensive line is too big of an Achilles heel to overcome in the postseason. And it is a shame because they seem to have everything else that a contender would need. DeShaun Watson will face a major test this week as he tries to drive a stake through the heart of the defending champions on their own turf. Houston is just 2-8 ATS on grass but they are 4-1 ATS on the road.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) - Since Ben Roethlisberger's rookie year, (2004) the Steelers have gone 43-16 straight up against NFC opponents. They are 32-15 in interconference games since Mike Tomlin took over in 2007. Over the last decade, the Steelers have gone 5-2 SU and ATS in their last seven games following a game against the Patriots.
9. Seattle Seahawks (8-6) - Win on Monday, lose on Sunday. Seattle's flat spot in San Francisco last week was the perfect example of my long-held maxim. I do expect the Seahawks to rebound quickly and lean on their major home field advantage this week. But keep in mind: Seattle has just two wins (Minnesota and Dallas) over teams that are currently above .500.
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-6) - This team absolutely cannot turn the ball over. They were really sloppy against Tampa Bay on Sunday. They got away with it because the Bucs are the Bucs. If Baltimore does not turn the ball over, they are almost impossible to beat right now. The Ravens are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games but just 1-4 ATS against teams with a winning record.
11. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) - The Vikings' 24-9 win over Detroit back in November was a bit of misleading final. Detroit went 0-for-3 in the red zone and they controlled the ball for nearly 37 minutes in that game. Minnesota is 5-2 ATS in its last seven meetings in Detroit and they are 14-5 ATS in their last 19 games against teams with a losing record.
12. Tennessee Titans (8-6) - The last time the Titans were double-digit home favorites they barely escaped with a win over the Jets. Tennessee has spent all season playing in the underdog role. It seems like a small thing, but it is hard to go from catching points every week to then laying out big points on the road or at home. Dating back to last year the Titans are just 5-8 ATS the last 13 times they have been favored.
13. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) - Matt Eberflus, the Colts defensive coordinator, was a long-time Dallas assistant prior to coming over to Indianapolis. You know that he was extra motivated for his defensive to step up last week, and boy did they ever. Indy is now No. 10 in total defense and No. 11 in points allowed. They have also played 'under' in five straight games despite boasting a Top 10 offense. This team is legit and has won seven of their last eight.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-6) - Cowboys players were quick to spin their shutout loss at Indianapolis as a positive thing; a "reality check". I think that's ridiculous. I think the Cowboys were exposed. Dallas is still likely to make the playoffs. And they should pick up an easy win over lowly Tampa Bay this week. I still think that this team is overrated despite a 5-1 ATS run and a 4-1 ATS run at home.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) - It is an interesting thing to see a champion playing for its life. The Eagles, for all their statistical faults, injuries, and coaching failures, have won three of their last four games. They are favored this week at home against Houston, and Philadelphia is clearly a desperate animal. The Eagles are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games and 1-5 ATS at home. Yet the books clearly expect a max effort from them on Sunday as they have posted Philadelphia as timid favorites over the Texans.
16. Cleveland Browns (6-7-1) - Head coach Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens are going to make it really difficult for general manager John Dorsey to fire them this offseason. The Browns have won four of their last five SU and ATS, and the players have clearly responded to the new staff. The favorite is 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings with the Bengals, and the Browns are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home games.
17. Denver Broncos (6-8) - Vance Joseph is 100 percent coaching for his job on Monday. Even if he wins these last two games, the odds are better than 50/50 that Joseph will get fired. But if Denver loses to hated rival Oakland on Monday Night Football, then Joseph is gone. The Broncos are just 8-18 ATS in their last 26 games under Joseph, and they are just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 MNF appearances.
18. Carolina Panthers (6-8) - Every throw that Cam Newton makes looks awkward and uncomfortable. He looked like garbage on Monday, and the Panthers were lucky to cover that spread as a home underdog. That loss essentially ended their playoff hopes, so it will be interesting to see their effort level on a short week against rival Atlanta. The Panthers are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games in this series.
19. Washington Redskins (7-7) - If you are expecting Josh Johnson to somehow rally this group for a playoff push, don't hold your breath. He looked overmatched last week against a disinterested Jaguars defense. I don't expect things to go any better against a physical Titans squad.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) - That was another decent effort from this improving defense. Tampa allowed 370 yards and Baltimore held the ball for 37 minutes. But the Bucs allowed 20 points or fewer for the third time in four games and the fourth time in the last six. Tampa Bay is just 1-5 against the total in their last six games since Mike Smith's firing.
21. Miami Dolphins (7-7) - The Dolphins are going to be outscored on the season for the fourth year in a row and for the 10th time in the last 13 seasons. Miami is 6-1 ATS in its last seven home game and the favorite is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between Miami and Jacksonville.
22. Green Bay Packers (5-8-1) - The Packers are 0-7 straight up on the road this season, and they have nothing left to play for. I am interested to see if this group decides to just mail it in over the last two weeks or if Aaron Rodgers will spark a play-for-pride run against two weak opponents (Jets, Lions).
23. Atlanta Falcons (5-9) - Someone is going to grossly overpay Tevin Coleman this spring, similar to how the Falcons overpaid for Devonta Freeman. The Falcons are 1-6 ATS on the road and 1-5 ATS in their last six trips to Charlotte. But they have owned the Panthers lately, winning five of the last six meetings.
24. Detroit Lions (5-9) - Has anyone in football played a tougher schedule than the Lions? We will see if Matt Patricia and the Lions embrace the role of spoiler this week. They have a chance to knock one of their division rivals, Minnesota, out of the playoffs this week.
25. New York Giants (5-9) - Hearing Pat Shurmur say that he thinks that Eli Manning has "years" left as a starter is music to my ears. I pray that Manning is a starter somewhere next season so I can bet against him just a few more times. The Giants are 5-2 ATS following a loss, and they are 14-6 ATS on the road after a double-digit home loss.
26. Buffalo Bills (5-9) - The Bills have fully committed to the youth movement. They played 11 rookies - including six undrafted rookies - last week against Detroit. I think that having younger team really prevents teams from tanking. The young kids are still trying to prove that they belong in the NFL, so their effort level will be really high these last two weeks. The Bills are just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 divisional games.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (6-8) - Bengals players see the writing on the wall with Marvin Lewis, and they know that he is as good as gone. But the last two weeks proved that these guys respect Lewis enough to continue to play hard for him. Cincinnati is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games against the Browns and 4-0 ATS in its last four meetings in Cleveland.
28. San Francisco 49ers (4-10) - If this team ever gets some talent then this offense could be unstoppable. They scheme players open as well as any offense in the NFL. Right now they have a bunch of scrap heap guys at the skill positions. But if they can go out and get some talent, then this team could make a leap next year.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) - Doug Marrone is a loser. And this team has completely and totally mailed it in.
30. New York Jets (4-10) - Sam Darnold has that rare ability to make every play feel like something big could happen, either for the Jets or against them. New York is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games and they are 0-4 ATS at home.
31. Arizona Cardinals (3-11) - It is ridiculous that Arizona isn't shutting down Josh Rosen for the year. He is getting absolutely crushed, and there is nothing productive to be accomplished by playing him in the last two weeks. Rosen already has a history with concussions and injuries. And learning bad habits while running for their lives has been a problem for dozens of first-round quarterbacks that never panned out.
32. Oakland Raiders (3-11) - While teams like Buffalo and Cleveland will avoid tanking because they have younger, hungrier rosters, the Raiders have one of the oldest rosters in the NFL, and these guys have all but quit on this season. The Raiders are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games and just 4-10 ATS on Monday Night Football.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday. Because of the holiday, my next ones will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 26.
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