Most weeks, the challenge in the Power Rankings is figuring out the teams that are ranked in the realm of 10-17. It seems no matter where I rank them, they end up losing the next week, forcing me to juggle the whole back half of the ranking. This week was a little different. It was the front runners struggling to get the job done this time around. The Broncos (2nd), Chiefs (4th) and Colts (7th) all got beat, forcing a little bit of a shake up at the top.
Crazy things happen every year when a team has a great December, but it sure is tough to see a Super Bowl contender coming from outside the top four this year (maybe top five). You look at the group beyond that and how they’re playing, and it just doesn’t seem like they pose much of a threat to the leaders. That’s why we play the game though. The chances of Seahawks-Saints and Patriots-Broncos in the conference title games seems like a major likelihood, but it’d be surprising if it actually plays out that way.
Biggest Rise: Cardinals +4, Buccaneers +4
Biggest Fall: Browns -8
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1, LW: 1): The Stat: 8. It’s going to be pretty sweet for the Seahawks to be at home this week, and not only because they’re playing for the inside track to homefield advantage against the Saints. Seattle has played on the road eight straight years coming out of their Bye week. The last home game following the week off was back in 2004, a loss at the Kingdome against St. Louis. Russell Wilson has never lost a home game.
2. New Orleans Saints (9-2, LW: 3): The Stat: 3. As any longtime fan of the Saints knows, this team may be good now, but things haven’t been this way for most of franchise history. New Orleans is 9-2 for just the third time. The other two were 9-2 in 1991 and 11-0 in 2009. A lot of that is due to Drew Brees, the QB who passed Warren Moon for 5th all time in passing yards.
3. New England Patriots (8-3, LW: 6): The Stat: 6. By overcoming a 24-0 halftime deficit to win 34-31, the Patriots are the 6th team in the past 50 years to come back for a victory of that kind. In fact, teams trailing by at least 24 at the half are now 6-485 in that time span. This is also the largest deficit Tom Brady or the Patriots franchise have overcome. Brady’s previous best was 21 (twice). The team was 0-17 in such situations.
4. Denver Broncos (9-2, LW: 2): The Stat: 0. Peyton Manning threw the ball 36 times for 150 yards Sunday night in New England. Knowshon Moreno ran the ball 37 times for 224 yards. This is the first time Manning’s running back has ever outgained him in a game that he played past the first couple series. His running back has had more attempts 15 times, but he had never been outgained.
5. Carolina Panthers (8-3, LW: 5): The Stat: 4. Anyone following the Panthers since Cam Newton joined the team knows that the difference between this team being bad or good was razor thin. The problem was that every time they played a close game they lost. In fact, prior to Week 10, Newton was 0-6 in his career in games decided by four points or less. In the past three weeks: 3-0.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2, LW: 4): The Stat: 7. The Chiefs are the seventh team in league history to start at least 9-0 and then lose back-to-back games. That’s the bad news. The promising news is that three of the previous six advanced to the Super Bowl. Of course, if the Chiefs front seven doesn’t get healthy and continue harassing quarterbacks, they’ll be shark bait for whichever 5-6 team gets the final playoff spot.
7. San Francisco 49ers (7-4, LW: 9): The Stat: 12-1. The 49ers are definitely seeing two very different versions of Colin Kaepernick this season. His completion percentage is close to the same, but his effectiveness is not. In seven wins, Kaepernick is throwing for 206 yards per game with 12 touchdowns and a single interception. In the four losses: 98.8 ypg, 2 TD and 6 INT. Big difference.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, LW: 8): The Stat: 2-3. Usually you’d love to come out of your Bye week and see a team with a losing record on the other side of the field. The Bengals might not be one of those, and it’s not just because the Chargers feel like a team that’s better than their 5-6 record. Cincinnati is 5-1 this year when playing a team that has a winning record, an impressive stat by any measure. Interestingly enough, they’re 2-3 when the opponent has a losing record. Can’t make much sense of that.
9. Arizona Cardinals (7-4, LW: 13): The Stat: 35. The Cardinals seem to have it all going right at the moment, everything except for a fast start. Arizona’s only scored 35 first quarter points this season, an average of 3.2 per game. What might be even more confusing is that their best quarter by a long shot is the one that immediately follows. They’ve scored 95 points in the second quarter, 8.6 per game. Overall, Arizona scores 11.8 in the 1st half and 11.3 in the 2nd.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5, LW: 12): The Stat: 13-1. Chip Kelly has done some good things in Philly, especially since Nick Foles took over the offense, but it’s going to be quite a challenge to match Andy Reid coming off the Bye week. Reid went 13-1 after a week off with the Eagles, his only loss coming last year in the 4-12 debacle.
11. Dallas Cowboys (6-5, LW: 14): The Stat: 11. No matter what Tony Romo does in his career, there are people who will hate on him and say he chokes in the biggest moments. Those people would be surprised to find out that no quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives in the 4th Quarter or Overtime than Romo. With Sunday’s win, he’s now done it 11 times since the start of 2011. By the way, Romo is the only Cowboys QB ever (paging Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman) with 200 career TD passes.
12. Indianapolis Colts (7-4, LW: 7): The Stat: 93-12. I have no idea what’s going on with the Colts, but ever since their Bye week, Indy has been blown out in the first half of every game. In four games, the combined first half score has been 93-12, with the 12 coming from the guys with the blue horseshoes. It should be considered practically a miracle that they’ve mustered a 2-2 record in that stretch.
13. Detroit Lions (6-5, LW: 11): The Stat: 861. Calvin Johnson nearly broke the single game receiving record earlier this year, but he did set one more this past week. Johnson now has the best five week stretch of any receiver in NFL history. His 861 yards in that time breaks Charley Hennigan’s 52-year-old record of 822 for the Houston Oilers.
14. Chicago Bears (6-5, LW: 10): The Stat: 1,597. The Bears are always considered one of the best defenses in the NFL, but this year they’re actually one of the worst in a number of categories. The Bears have given up more rushing yards than any other team in football, 1,597. That’s an atrocious 145 yards per game. They’ve also allowed 14 touchdowns on the ground, one away from the league worst number.
15. San Diego Chargers (5-6, LW: 15): The Stat: 73.9 ,65.5. He still leads the league in completion percentage, but as his team falls farther and farther from the leaders in the NFC West, Philip Rivers’ accuracy is on a similar slide. Through seven games, San Diego was 4-3, and Rivers was completing 73.9% of his passes. Since then, they’ve gone 1-3 and he’s completed just 65.5%.
16. Green Bay Packers (5-5-1, LW: 17): The Stat: +70, +1. Just how much does Aaron Rodgers mean to the Packers. You could count it in a number of ways, but one that’s very telling is turnover ratio. In Rodgers career, the Packers are +70 in that category. In Brett Favre’s entire Hall of Fame career, Green Bay was +4. In the nearly four games Rodgers has been out they’ve been -3. So, since Week 3 of 1992, the Packers are +70 with Rodgers and +1 with anyone else, including the guy who holds almost every quarterback record.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6, LW: 20): The Stat: 8-of-9. There are six AFC teams at 5-6 right now, tied for the final playoff spot in the conference. I chose this stat because, of those six, the Steelers had the worst start at 0-4 and 2-6. Eight of the last nine seasons, a team starting 5-6 or worse has made the playoffs. That stat is guaranteed to become nine of the last ten seasons. The most promising part: six of those eight teams didn’t just qualify for the postseason. They won a playoff game.
18. Baltimore Ravens (5-6, LW: 21): The Stat: 16.6, 10. In Week One, the Ravens defense left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, allowing 49 points and seven touchdown passes. That made it seem like the unit was on the downswing after a heavy turnover. If you haven’t noticed, though, they’ve totally turned it around since then. In the last 10 games, Baltimore is giving up 16.6 points per game and one touchdown pass per contest. Those averages are 4th and 3rd in the NFL, respectively.
19. Miami Dolphins (5-6, LW: 22): The Stat: 13. Mike Wallace was brought to Miami to catch the long ball, and the Power Rankings last week called him out for not getting that job done. This week he finally did. Wallace had 127 receiving yards including a 53-yd touchdown catch. The 53-yarder gave him his 13th score of 40-or-more yards since the start of 2010. That’s the NFL’s best number with Jordy Nelson second at 11.
20. St. Louis Rams (5-6, LW: 23): The Stat: 80. All of a sudden, and with Kellen Clemens at quarterback, the Rams are once again the Greatest Show on Turf. St. Louis has discovered Tavon Austin on its bench and scored 80 points in the past two games. The last time the Rams had that output in such a short stretch was in the glory days of 2001, Weeks 15 and 16 to be exact.
21. New York Giants (4-7, LW: 16): The Stat: 2007. The Giants continue to improve after their awful start, but the four-game winning streak is over, and that brought another rarity along. This is the first time since 2007 that New York has been swept in the season series with rival Dallas.
22. New York Jets (5-6, LW: 18): The Stat: 0-9. The Jets made a little noise before last week’s game, signing future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed to shore up a leaky secondary. Reed, though, may be just the bad luck charm New York didn’t need. His teams are 0-9 so far this season, making his last win last year’s Super Bowl with the Ravens. Of course, it could also just be that the Jets have lost eight straight against Baltimore and are 3-17 all time against defending Super Bowl champions.
23. Tennessee Titans (5-6, LW: 26): The Stat: 27.7-15.8. A lot of the talk around the Titans is about whether Chris Johnson decides to show up or not. The real difference in how this team plays, though, is its defense. In their five wins, the Tennessee defensive unit is allowing only 15.8 points. In the six losses, that average balloons to 27.7.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8, LW: 28): The Stat: 3. After starting 0-8, the Bucs have rebounded and are now 3-8. Tampa Bay is actually only the third team ever to pull that trick, following 1978 Cardinals and 1986 Colts. The Cards finished that year 6-10, while the ’86 Colts lost all momentum and ended up 3-13.
25. Oakland Raiders (4-7, LW: 28): The Stat: 3-1. The Raiders aren’t having the greatest season, but if history’s on their side things could go well this weekend. Oakland is 3-1 all time in Dallas and 6-3 against the Cowboys overall. The only negative: that one loss in Texas was their most recent game against each other in 2009.
26. Buffalo Bills (4-7, LW: 25): The Stat: 5-0. The Bills come back from their Bye week to host Atlanta this week. It’s not a great time for the Falcons to come calling, and not just because they’re struggling. Buffalo has won its last five post-Bye home games. Interestingly enough, they’ve lost three straight when hitting the road after the off week.
27. Cleveland Browns (4-7, LW: 19): The Stat: 237. You haven’t heard much good news out of Cleveland the last couple weeks, but budding star receiver Josh Gordon made some serious noise against Pittsburgh. Gordon had a team record 237 receiving yards in the contest, making Browns fans pretty pleased the team didn’t let him go at the trade deadline.
28. Washington Redskins (3-8, LW: 27): The Stat: 1. Robert Griffin III has seen his fair share of struggles this year, but this week was a first for the 2nd year signal caller. It was the only time in his college or pro career that his team didn’t score a touchdown. Of course, watching him get hit play-after-play, it’s not too surprising they couldn’t find the end zone.
29. Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1, LW: 30): The Stat: 9,846. Adrian Peterson played his 100th career game Sunday, and though most people will focus on it being the first Minnesota tie since 1978, it was a special day for AD too. His 9,846 rushing yards are the third highest total ever for a player in 100 games. He’s got some pretty good company too. The only guys with more are Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown, the two players he’s usually most compared to.
30. Atlanta Falcons (2-9, LW: 31): The Stat: 1,300. With four catches last Thursday against the Saints, Tony Gonzalez became only the second man with 1,300 receptions in his career. Tony G is 198 receptions ahead of Marvin Harrison for second and 249 behind Jerry Rice for the record. Atlanta has 14 other players with a reception this year. Those 14 combined have a total of 1,757 (1,069 of those from Roddy White and Steven Jackson).
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9, LW: 32): The Stat: 2. They still have the worst record in the NFL, but have things actually improved for the Jaguars? With the win over Houston Sunday, Jacksonville matched last year’s win total of…two. Turns out, though, they haven’t improved yet. Their second win was this exact same week a year ago. The next W will show a baby step forward.
32. Houston Texans (2-9, LW: 29): The Stat: 3,194. Here’s one you don’t normally see out of arguably the worst team in the NFL. The Texans have somehow given up less yards (3,194) and less passing yards (1,890) than any team in the league. Houston’s offense has hurt matters with a number of turnovers, especially by giving up defensive touchdowns. Also, the defense is just the opposite of bend but don’t break. Instead of giving up a ton of yards but getting turnovers and not allowing points, they give up few yards but are last in turnovers gained and 27th in points against.