Week 17 NFL Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 12/29/2007
The last week of the NFL season draws near, and so many players are already dreaming of Monday mornings when they don't feel like they have been run over by a truck. That means we can expect a lot of bad games played by players we had forgotten about - heck, Chris Weinke is starting for San Francisco. This week won't prove much besides deciding a playoff spot or two, but it does make the gap between the good teams and the bad in this league even more obvious. That's what a Power Ranking does, too, so let's get started:
1) New England Patriots (15-0) - As I write this the team is less than 12 hours away from claiming victory in their 16th-straight game. That mark seems as inevitable as it is impressive. There have been bumps along the road, but this team has played with more confidence, efficiency, and stone-cold ruthlessness than any other one out there. They are at the top and it isn't even close.
2) Indianapolis Colts (13-2) - I had a dream last night that Peyton Manning had robbed an armored truck and was going to be in jail for a long time. I'm pretty sure that's not true, and I don't see it happening before Sunday, so they Colts are a clear No. 2. The only interesting thing for them this week will be to see if Marvin Harrison is healthy enough to contribute in the playoffs.
3) Dallas Cowboys (13-2) - They found a way to win last week when they were banged up. They aren't even trying this week, but that doesn't matter. The NFC may be the weaker sister this year, but Dallas is the clear class of the field. Sadly, the better they do in the playoffs, the more we will have to hear about Jessica Simpson. That's reason enough to hope for an early upset.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars (11-4) - This is the team beyond the top two that I would least want to play against right now. They have covered seven straight games, and only lost a close one to Indy over that time. They are mostly blowing teams out while dominating both sides of the ball, and they have a chip on their shoulder a mile wide.
5) Green Bay Packers (12-3) - The Pack drops a spot after laying an egg so big last week that it would take three ostriches to handle it. I seriously debated dropping them further, but there was no one deserving of climbing up. Their failure to show up in Chicago when they needed a win to keep home field possibilities alive was concerning going forward, but they had covered seven of their previous eight, so it's not time to panic yet.
6) San Diego Chargers (10-5) - This is where the rankings start to get ugly. There are four teams at 10-5, and all of them are too flawed to love. The Chargers are the best of the pack. I guess. They have won and covered five straight, but only one team, Tennessee, was a potential playoff squad. They have the talent to excel, but they also have Philip Rivers taking snaps, and that doesn't make we want to plan a parade route just yet.
7) Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) - Pittsburgh is ranked this high mainly because they aren't the Giants or Seattle - two teams I really don't like. The loss of Willie Parker last week is a big blow, and recent losses to New England and Jacksonville showed us that Ben and the boys are not an elite squad, but they are feisty and talented enough to win a playoff game.
8) Seattle Seahawks (10-5) - The Seahawks should wear uniforms that are all gray, because they are such a dreary, unremarkable team. They have won and covered six of their last seven, yet no one has noticed. They are middle of the pack offensively and defensively, but they have the division and the schedule to coast along to another decent record. Given that they play in the NFC they could even win a couple of playoffs games. I don't even think that that would make anyone notice, or care about, this team.
9) Washington Redskins (8-7) - I am elevating the Redskins higher than they probably should be because of two huge factors - momentum and passion. For the first time in the second Joe Gibbs era this team is playing like they want to win. They have covered three straight, including tough trips to New York and Minnesota back to back, and they only need a win to make the playoffs. They obviously have something to rally around, and they could be dangerous - I'm pretty sure that's a glass slipper that Gibbs is wearing.
10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) - Again, this is probably too high, but I am so tired of hearing how this team is a surprise and a fluke. Their defense is impressive, Jeff Garcia finds a way to get things done, and no one could have guessed that Earnest Graham would turn into a star. I don't like that they lost to San Francisco, but the game was totally meaningless.
11) New York Giants (10-5) - I can't drop a team that has clinched a playoff spot any lower, I guess. I'm not sure I have ever seen a less impressive 10-5 team. All five of their losses have been to playoff teams (if Minnesota can get in), while Washington is the only team they have beaten that can finish above .500. And don't even get me started on what a piece of crap Eli Manning is.
12) Tennessee Titans (9-6) - You wouldn't think that an offense this uninspiring could be on the verge of the playoffs, but the Titans control their destiny. LenDale White is finally living up to his potential, and he has three straight solid weeks under his large belt. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a good team, though - they are just 4-8 ATS in their last 12.
13) Cleveland Browns (9-6) - Beyond Braylon Edwards I am not a particular Cleveland fan, but I felt as if they had punched me in the gut last weekend when they lost to Cincinnati. It was all sitting right there for them - 10 wins and a playoff berth - and they barely even showed up. Derek Anderson was terrible, which has to be a concern for everyone besides Brady Quinn.
14) Minnesota Vikings (8-7) - Like Cleveland, Minnesota had destiny in the palm of their hands and they threw it away. I'm concerned that Tarvaris Jackson was unimpressive against Washington in the biggest game of his career, but I am downright mystified why Adrian Peterson was so non-existent. That's two no-shows in four games since his return from injury - not what a team fighting for its playoff life needs.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (7-8) - This is the first spot in which teams don't have any hope remaining, and I suspect it is also where most of you will stop reading. I don't blame you. The Eagles are here because in the last two weeks they have beaten Dallas and knocked New Orleans out of the playoffs. If only their first 14 weeks hadn't been such a mess.
16) Houston Texans (7-8) - This team was as competitive as they were with Ron Dayne as their main rushing threat and with Andre Johnson missing seven weeks of action. That deserves some recognition. The future is bright for this team - not so bright that you need industrial strength sunglasses, but brighter than it has ever been.
17) Buffalo Bills (7-8) - No team besides Green Bay deserves more credit for their win total than Buffalo. They have a non-existent offense, a barely better defense, and more injuries than any team could ever deserve, yet they would end up at .500 with a win on Sunday. On top of all that, at 8-6-1 ATS, they will end up the season as a profitable team for their backers.
18) Arizona Cardinals (7-8) - Kurt Warner is a marvel. No one ns Arizona wanted to see him get the ball this year, yet he passed for 24 touchdowns and more than 3,100 yards in 10 starts and appearances in three other games. His yardage was 12th best in the league. Give him a full year at the helm of a good offense, and the guy is still easily a top eight QB in the league.
19) New Orleans Saints (7-8) - This team ends up near the bottom of the 7-8 pile as a punishment for wasting so much potential. Despite a potent offense and a theoretically upgraded defense, last year's darlings started out terribly, and were never good enough to catch up. I do laugh every time I see that Will Smith is their leading pass rusher - I don't know how he juggles that with his movie career.
20) Carolina Panthers (6-9) - Talk about wasted potential. At 4-2 they looked like the class of their division and a true contender in the NFC. Then they lost seven of their next nine. Who would have guessed that 200-year-old Vinny Testaverde wasn't the answer? If you're looking for a positive, at least they covered their last two.
21) Denver Broncos (6-9) - Good teams do not lose four of their last five games, and they really don't lose to Detroit by 37. They also shouldn't be 4-11 ATS. Elvis Dumeril has been solid, but the list of bright lights beyond that is pretty short. I'm a long way from being convinced that Jay Cutler is the next Jon Elway and not the next Jake Plummer.
22) Detroit Lions (7-8) - This team is truly ridiculous. They have drafted more receiving talent in the last five years than most teams have in their history, yet Shaun MacDonald is their top pass catcher. They have no running game, they have no defense, and it seems as of they have no hope of ever being a relevant franchise in the league.
23) Chicago Bears (6-9) - I'll put the Bears here because they beat Green Bay so convincingly last week, and because they have covered two in a row. I'll even, for this week, ignore the boatload of problems the team has. Heck, if they promise to do something about their wretched quarterbacking situation in the offseason I am willing to forget that this year ever happened.
24) San Francisco 49ers (5-10) - I'm elevating the Niners above their record because I have a soft spot for them. They had no offense, not much defense, and they couldn't catch a break, but they didn't give up and they won their last two. Next year can only be better.
25) Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) - Why is it that there are so many below average teams this year in the NFL? Is it because this was a below average season for the mighty league I mean, honestly, how many games did you see that weren't at least a little boring? The Bengals were disappointingly unwatchable, but they were far from the only such team.
26) New York Jets (3-12) - We are truly in the cellar of the league now. The Jets earn this spot above teams with better records because they have managed to cover five of their last seven.
27) Oakland Raiders (4-11) - The Raiders were officially eliminated from playoff contention some time in August, yet JaMarcus Russell is only now making his first start of his career. Does that smell a little fishy to anyone else?
28) St. Louis Rams (3-12) - The Rams won three of four a while back. That's better than a lot of teams down here can say. Of course, they also lost eight in a row before that, and three straight since, so we can't get too excited. That's why they are 28th.
29) Atlanta Falcons (3-12) - Sure, they are higher than they should be out of sympathy over the horrendous fate that has befallen this team, but it's not like any team below them has the right to be offended for not getting the credit they deserve.
30) Kansas City Chiefs (4-11) - Zzzzz... Sorry, just fell asleep thinking about these teams at the bottom of the rankings. What a bunch of dogs. The Chiefs were once 4-3 and alive and well in a weak division. Then they lost eight in a row. Oops. So much for the Herm Edwards re-birth.
31) Baltimore Ravens (4-11) - The Chiefs' eight straight losses looks pretty good next to Baltimore's nine in a row. The Chiefs' quarterbacking situation also looks pretty good next to the mess in Baltimore. This is a team that has ridden the defense very successfully for a long time, but now that defense is old and slow.
32) Miami Dolphins (1-14) - I am incredibly angry at you, Miami, for winning that game when you had history so close at hand. I may never be able to forgive you. Thankfully, though, I am far from convinced that Bill Parcells is the answer to your woes, so you should continue to struggle for years to come.