Your Updated NFL Conference Power Rankings
1. Patriots (10-2)
The Patriots still only rank 29th in Defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders. And oh, they only rank 28th in yards allowed per game as well. But those stats don’t matter to Bill Belichick. The only things that matter to him are wins and points, and the Patriots have been excellent in those categories over the past eight weeks. If you hadn’t noticed, the Patriots have strung together eight straight wins and shifted into that usual postseason swing. During the win streak they are allowing 11.87 PPG (1st in the league), and scoring 27.35 PPG (4th in the league). And sure, the best teams they have played are the Chargers, Bills, and Falcons, but they also lost their best defender and team captain Dont’a Hightower for the entire season. It’s amazing they’ve been so good on the defensive end, but did we really expect anything different?
2. Steelers (10-2)
Say what you want to say about the Steelers but they’re still winning football games, and are tied for the number one seed in the AFC. Actually, I think I’ll say it anyway. These Steelers are unimpressive beyond belief. The Patriots aren’t the only ones who have had a weak schedule. The only difference is the Steelers consistently play down to their competition. If not for a record 173 yards in penalty yards they lose to the Bengals on Monday night. If Aaron Rodgers plays instead of Brett Hundley the previous week they get wiped with the floor. If Detroit can score once in the Red Zone (0-5) they likely lose that one as well. They barely snuck by Indy and they lost to the Bears. We’ve had teams like this before. The 2015 Broncos un-impressively found ways to win until they captured a Super Bowl title, but it’s certainly not assuring, and it’s why the Steelers are delegated to solely contender status.
(none) Goodbye Chiefs!
3. Chargers (6-6)
4. Jaguars (8-4)
5. Titans (8-4)
6. Ravens (7-5)
7. Chiefs (6-6)
8. Raiders (6-6)
9. Bills (6-6)
The Chargers are certainly the most interesting team of this bunch, and the only team who could legitimately take the next step into contender status. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are terrorizing opposing quarterbacks from the edges, Keenan Allen is downright superhuman right now, and Phillip Rivers is limiting his INTs. Good QB play and a stingy defense makes them the clear favorite to separate from the pack. Now, can they stop choking away close games?
The Jaguars and Titans will likely duke it out for the AFC South crown in Week 17. But if it doesn’t come to that, I’d expect the onus will fall upon the Titans. Mariota hasn’t been very good this year, the defense has big holes, and they scrape by every week against teams like the Colts and Texans. The Jaguars lost to the Cardinals last week, but their defense is still one of the best units in the league, capable of winning games on its own. I guess when push comes to shove, trust the team with the best unit on its side. Either way, neither one of these teams pose a serious threat in the AFC.
The Raven keep holding onto that sixth seed in the playoffs, and it seems unlikely anybody is going to take it from them with the Browns, Bengals, and Colts left on their schedule. So I guess it doesn’t matter that Joe Flacco is playing like the 34th best QB in the league according to Football Outsiders DVOA.
The good news for the Chiefs is they can win the tiebreaker over the Chargers with a win at home in Week 15. The Bad news is they can’t seem to beat anybody right now. Not the Giants, Jets, or Bills at least. And if they can’t beat those teams, how are they supposed to beat anybody left on their schedule? Goodbye super Chiefs. The Raiders have won four of six, but have looked extremely unimpressive doing so, squeaking by the Giants, Broncos, and Dolphins. It’s safe to say they are nowhere near as good as they were last year. And if they somehow pull off a division title it will certainly be the most shocking out of all the AFC West contenders.
The Bills just got walloped at home, and though Tyrod Taylor survived a major scare, he played terribly against the Patriots. So does it really matter who plays QB this weekend, or the next? This team isn’t going to get the 10 wins it needs to make the playoffs.
A MIRACLE IS NEEDED
11. Bengals (5-7)
10. Dolphins (5-7)
The Bengals’ Monday night loss to the Steelers was the most Bengaliest loss ever. 173 yards in penalties? Are you kidding me? And the worse part is that it’s not even surprising. We all knew they were capable of such a feat. The only team the Dolphins have beaten since Halloween is the Denver Broncos. Yikes, that’s scary. An inevitable loss this Monday night to the Patriots will surely end another disappointing year for the fish.
THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR
12. Jets (5-7)
13. Texans (4-8)
14. Colts (3-9)
15. Broncos (3-9)
16. Browns (0-10)
1. Eagles (10-2)
It will be very interesting to see how the Eagles respond to Sunday night’s befuddling defeat at the hands of the injured Seahawks. Wentz made some amazing throws and the Eagles defense had Russell Wilson running for his life on every single play, but a few critical mistakes (Wentzs’ fumble, blown coverages) cost them the game. Travelling to Los Angeles to play the Rams should give the Eagles another big test, and another chance to prove they are the buzz saw everyone believes they are. If they can’t come through, the NFC will start to feel a lot more open than previously thought.
2. Vikings (10-2)
3. Saints (9-3)
The latter part of the Vikings schedule was supposed to put the NFC North favorites back in their place as a middling team with an average QB. It has done anything but, as the Vikes have passed each and every test with flying colors, beating the Rams, Lions, Redskins, and Falcons. What is there to say? The way they controlled Julio Jones last week was super impressive (2 Rec, 24 YDS). The much maligned Casey Keenum ranks 2nd in Total QBR and 1st in DVOA amongst quarterbacks, and they just keep winning. One more win against Carolina and they just might be the favorites in the NFC.
The Saints throttling of the Panthers for the second time this season essentially wraps up the NFC South. Alvin Kamara is officially unstoppable, whether it be through the air or on the ground, and it really feels like he’s the one guy nobody wants to see come playoff time. Not to mention, they still have Drew Brees. A loss to the Vikings puts them two games out of a possible #1 seed, but if the Eagles falter, lookout. If the Saints grab the #2 seed, and the Vikes falter in the Divisional round, it could be home cookin’ for New Orleans, and I’m sure nobody in the NFC field wants that.
4. Seahawks (8-4)
5. Rams (9-3)
6. Panthers (8-4)
Russell Wilson proved that he is incredible on Sunday night against the Eagles. As I said before, he was running for his life on every single play and yet was still able to put drives together against a good defense. Unfortunately, as amazing as it looked, it’s not a sustainable approach. It won’t be surprising if they take the NFC West, but it’d be real surprising if they found a way to make Super Bowl run.
The Rams have a big game against the Eagles this week that could launch them into the contenders section of these rankings. Last time they had a big test like this they melted down the stretch against the Vikings, losing 24-7. With a sneaky tough schedule remaining, (PHIL, @SEA, @TEN, SF with Jimmy G) they are going to have to prove they have playoff mettle in order to beat out the Seahawks for the division.
The roller coaster continues for the Panthers, who lost emphatically again to the Saints this past weekend. A big win against the Vikings could catapult them back into serious contention. But the old adage continues for the Panthers. When Cam plays like Superman, they win. When he doesn’t, they lose. In their eight wins this year Cam has completed 60% of his passes, has a QB rating of 97.2, has thrown 13 TDs to 3 INTs, and has averaged 7.49 yards per attempt. In Carolina’s four losses he has a QB rating of 59.0, has tossed 3 TDs to 8 INTs, and has only averaged 5.76 yards per attempt.
7. Falcons (7-5)
8. Packers (6-6)
9. Lions (6-6)
The Falcons offensive struggles continued against the Vikings this past weekend. It’s unbelievable how one dimensional they feel with all the weapons they have. They’ve scored at an ugly .381 points per play comparatively to last year’s .550. Maybe that was unsustainable, but this offense just gets in ruts it can’t find the answers for, and now it’s do or die. They might need to beat the Saints twice to get into the playoffs.
The Packers are waiting on a prayer, and that prayer is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are hoping he could return in Week 15 against the Panthers. And if he does, all bets are off on how high of a ceiling this team has. With a win this week against the Browns, the mumbling and the hype will get a lot more serious.
Detroit still has winnable games left against the Bengals, Bucs, Bears, and hopefully an Aaron Rodgersless Packers team. Still, how Stafford is able to throw the ball with his current hand injury is of big concern, and does anyone think the Lions have the talent to overcome it if it poses a serious hindrance? I didn’t think so.
A MIRACLE IS NEEDED
9. Cowboys (6-6)
Could four straight wins catapult the Cowboys into contention? Yes. Will it happen? Most likely not, unless a light bulb goes off in Jason Garrett’s brain and he figures out how to coach without his star players, or Dak Prescott shows he can be a phenomenal QB without Zeke Elliot, or the defense takes a few steps forward. So yeah, it’s not going to happen.
THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR
11. Washington (5-7)
12. Cardinals (5-7)
13. 49ers (2-10)
14. Bears (3-9)
15. Bucs (4-8)
16. Giants (2-10)
One comment: Keep an eye on Jimmy G. He looked really good against the Bears on Sunday, and the 49ers have the Texans, Titans, Jaguars and Rams left on their schedule. Would it surprise you at all if they won at least two of those four games? Not at all. In fact, I guarantee it. Depending on who they beat, it could have major consequences on playoff positioning. So get ready league, here comes Jimmy.