There’s one week left in the regular season, and very little is actually decided in the playoff picture. One thing is for sure – no matter what seems to happen in the NFL right now, Seattle is the best team in football. The problem is that they proved at home against the Cardinals that even the best team doesn’t get the job done each week. Despite that, they stay at number one in the Power Rankings.
With multiple top ten losses following Seattle, the rankings did get a little bit of a shake up. The most amazing thing is the turnaround of the NFC West in just a couple years. In 2010, the Seahawks won the division at 7-9. This year they have three top ten teams that might finish with 11+ wins. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, that probably still won’t get them into the postseason.
Biggest Rise: Eagles +6
Biggest Fall: Ravens -5
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-3, LW: 1): The Stat: 1,176. The Seahawks’ home loss to Arizona wasn’t just the first home loss of Russell Wilson’s two year pro career. It was his first home loss in 1,176 days. His last one came Oct. 2, 2010 in an NC State loss to Virginia Tech. He won three more home games with the Wolfpack, all seven in his lone season at Wisconsin and the first 14 with Seattle. Three years, two months, two weeks and six days later, the streak is over.
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-4, LW: 5): The Stat: 89. After NaVorro Bowman failed to recover an Atlanta onside kick, it looked like the 49ers would at least be going to overtime and possibly losing. Then Bowman atoned in the biggest way. His 89-yd interception return touchdown clinched the game for San Fran, and it made some history in the final game at Candlestick Park. The return was the first touchdown of Bowman’s career and the longest for the 49ers since Zack Bronson took one 97 yards in 2001.
3. Denver Broncos (12-3, LW: 3): The Stat: 51. How could it be anything other than Peyton Manning breaking the single season passing touchdown record with 51. One of the most impressive things about it is how he’s done it. Manning is spreading the ball around like never before, throwing double digit touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas (12), Julius Thomas (12), Wes Welker (10) and Eric Decker (10). When Tom Brady set the record at 50 in 2007, he only threw double digit TD to Randy Moss (23).
4. New England Patriots (11-4, LW: 4): The Stat: 10. The Patriots blew out the Ravens, proving Rob Gronkowski isn’t always the key to scoring in New England. Of course, the Pats have figured out plenty of ways to win through the years, and they’ve now locked up an NFL record 10 division titles in the past 11 seasons. The one time they didn’t win was in 2008 when Matt Cassel led them to an 11-5 finish, but the Dolphins took the division. Brady has won a division title in 11 of the 12 seasons he’s been the primary quarterback.
5. Carolina Panthers (11-4, LW: 6): The Stat: 4-2, 1-9. In Cam Newton’s first two seasons the Panthers went 1-9 in one possession games where they led in the 4th Quarter. This year, Carolina is 4-2 in those games, including Sunday’s win against the Saints. The Panthers continued the narrative with 12-7 and 24-23 losses to Seattle and Buffalo to start the year. Since then, they’ve won four straight in that situation, and they’ve done it against San Francisco, New England, Miami and New Orleans.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6, LW: 12): The Stat: 2,012. LeSean McCoy etches his name a little deeper into the Eagles record books every week. This time: he’s the 3rd player in franchise history to reach 2,000 all purpose yards in a season. He’s at 2,012 with a week to go. The others were Brian Westbrook and Wilbert Montgomery. Westbrook gained 2,104 yards in 2007, and Montgomery put up 2,006 in 1979. 93 yards in the finale at Dallas will give him the franchise record.
7. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, LW: 9): The Stat: 4-0. The Colts don’t always play well, but they’ve proven they can beat the best teams the NFL has to offer. Indy is 4-0 this year against the Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos and Chiefs. Those four teams are 45-9 against everyone else. The five teams that beat the Colts are a combined 43-32.
8. New Orleans Saints (10-5, LW: 5): The Stat: 23-12. The Saints have played eight times on the road and seven at home this season, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Drew Brees’ touchdown totals. Brees has thrown 23 touchdown passes at home and just 12 away from the Superdome. Making matters worse: of his 12 interceptions, nine of them came in those road games. That doesn’t bode well for a team that’s now in line to play the entire postseason away from home.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5, LW: 11): The Stat: 10. In this case, the ten represents many things for the Bengals. The defense of this team is one of the best in the NFL, and they are in the top ten in nearly every important category: Total Defense (5th), Points (6th), Yards Per Play (2nd), Turnovers Forced (9th), 1st Downs Against (4th), Passing Yards Against (6th), Passing Touchdowns Against (10th), Interceptions (9th), Fumbles Recovered (8th), Rushing Yards Against (6th), and Rushing Touchdowns Against (4th).
10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5, LW: 13): The Stat: 7. It can be a little tough to understand how the Cardinals have found their way to 10-5 when you look at the stats. Arizona boasts the league’s 23rd ranked rushing attack, and Carson Palmer is tied for an NFL worst seven multi-interception games. Somehow, they just keep getting it done, and Sunday at Seattle was a perfect example. Palmer threw four interceptions, but the defense stepped up and helped the Cards to the 17-10 win.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4, LW: 7): The Stat: 41.2. The Chiefs have had plenty of numbers get gradually worse after their blazing 9-0 start, but one thing hasn’t changed. The return teams are the best in the league at giving the offense room to work with. The punt and kick return teams combine for 41.2 yards (29.8 on kicks, 11.4 on punts). Because of that, KC also leads the NFL in starting field possession. They usually take possession at their own 34.1.
12. Chicago Bears (8-7, LW: 8): The Stat: 40. The Bears were annihilated by the Eagles up tempo offense Sunday night, but the more alarming thing was that it’s becoming routine for the once vaunted Chicago defense. They’ve allowed 40+ points four times in the past 12 games, all losses. They snapped a streak of 59 straight games without allowing 40+ earlier this year, and their last four games of 40+ before the current streak came in 137 contests.
13. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, LW: 18): The Stat: 2-11. The Cowboys did what they had to do. They scored the last minute touchdown that kept their playoff hopes alive, and now Dallas is in a familiar situation. This is the third straight year the team has played a de facto NFC East Championship game, and it comes against a third different opponent. They lost to the Giants 31-14 on the road in 2011 and the Redskins 28-18 away from home last year. In fact, the Cowboys are just 2-11 in Week 17 since 2000, worst in the NFL. The silver lining: the only two wins in those 13 years came against the Eagles, their opponent this week. Of course, without Tony Romo it’ll be much tougher.
14. San Diego Chargers (8-7, LW: 14): The Stat: 29-6. The Chargers need a win plus Baltimore and Miami losses Sunday to get into the postseason, and if history is any indicator, San Diego could be in good shape to at least hold up their end of the bargain. In his career, Philip Rivers is 29-6 in December, an .829 winning percentage. Only Tom Brady (27-4, .871) is better since 2006.
15. Baltimore Ravens (8-7, LW: 10): The Stat: 33. There wasn’t anything going right for the Ravens Sunday against New England, and that became perfectly clear when reliable kicker Justin Tucker missed a 37-yard field goal. The miss ended Tucker’s streak of 33 straight attempts without a miss, 4th longest in NFL history. It was also Tucker’s first miss inside 40 yards this season. He’s 35-38 this season.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8, LW: 19): The Stat: 18. The Rams aren’t all Zac Stacy and his bruising running style. Defensive end Robert Quinn has been doing some brusing of his own this season, setting a franchise record with 18 sacks this year. Quinn had three sacks against Tampa Bay Sunday, passing Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis for the NFL lead. He has five multi-sack games this season.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8, LW: 20): The Stat: 3. The Steelers have a tough but not impossible road in their quest to make the playoffs. They need a win against Cincinnati along with losses by the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers. If all that happens, Pittsburgh joins three other teams since 2000 who made the playoffs despite a losing record entering the final week. The 2004 Rams, 2008 Chargers and 2010 Seahawks all did it, and more impressively, all three won their Wild Card game.
18. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1, LW: 16): The Stat: 3. The Packers had a lot of good happen for them Sunday, mostly because of the legs of Eddie Lacy. The back broke the Green Bay rookie record set by John Brockington in 1971. His 1,112 yards eclipsed Brockington’s 1,105. He also became the first Packers back with 10 touchdown runs since Ryan Grant in 2009. The Packers lost the game, though, and part of it was because of a pick six thrown by Matt Flynn. In the nearly eight games Green Bay his played without Aaron Rodgers, Packers QBs have thrown three interceptions returned for touchdowns. Rodgers has thrown one in 86 career starts, in the final minute of a 38-28 loss to Tampa Bay in 2009.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-7, LW: 15): The Stat: 74, 978; 68, 905. When the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace to a mega deal in the offseason I bet they never expected it would be Brian Hartline posting the better numbers. Hartline and Wallace have made a quality one-two punch this year, but Hartline has been the one. He has 74 receptions for 978 yards, compared to Wallace’s 68 for 905. Hartline has the same number of catches he had last year, but he’ll need 106 yards in the finale to set a new personal best in that category.
20. Detroit Lions (7-8, LW: 17): The Stat: 11. Matthew Stafford has convinced some in the league that he is an elite quarterback. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to be able to consistently earn that lofty status. The season’s first 10 games, Stafford threw 21 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. In the last five games, a 1-4 stretch for the Lions, the quarterback has thrown 7 touchdowns and 11 picks. It’s not like his line is the problem either. Stafford has only been sacked 18 times, 2nd best in the NFL.
21. Tennessee Titans (6-9, LW: 21): The Stat: 2.9. The season hasn’t always been great for the Titans, but one thing has been consistent. Tennessee’s pass defense is one of the best in the NFL, and they are number one in one of the most important categories. The Titans give up a touchdown pass on a league leading 2.9% of drop backs. They, the Panthers and the Seahawks are tied for the league lead, giving up 15 passes through the air.
22. New York Giants (6-9, LW: 24): The Stat: 0, 6. The Giants have struggled all season, particularly their quarterback, and one reason for that is Eli Manning’s difficulty connecting with Hakeem Nicks in key situations. Nicks has started 14 games this year but doesn’t have a touchdown reception. However, Manning has thrown six interceptions targeting the 6′ veteran.
23. New York Jets (7-8, LW: 23): The Stat: +2.4. The Jets won’t be going to the playoffs this year, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get the best out of this team that they could. Based off the teams point differential, New York has 2.4 more wins than they actually should. They should be closer to 4.6-10.4 than the 7-8 they are in the final week. This week brings a chance to play spoiler too. Beating the Dolphins will keep Miami out of the postseason.
24. Buffalo Bills (6-9, LW: 26): The Stat: 203, 2:08. The Bills have led the NFL most of the season in possessions. Right now they have 203, ten more than 2nd place Baltimore. The problem is that they’re getting all these possessions because they don’t hold onto the ball. Buffalo is next to last in the league in possession time at 2:08. In the case of the Eagles, possession time isn’t an issue because they score 2.14 points per possession (5th best). The Bills, though, score just 1.46 points per drive (25th).
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11, LW: 25): The Stat: 109. Most of the season the talk was about how historically awful the Jaguars offense was. With one game remaining, it’s not Jacksonville bringing up the rear in total offense. It’s actually Tampa Bay. The Bucs have gained 4,142 yards (276.1 yds/game), 109 behind the Jags. It’s not tough to see why. Tampa’s gone through multiple running backs and cut the starting quarterback mid-season.
26. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1, LW: 22): The Stat: 22. It can’t all be bad for the Vikings, can it? Cordarrelle Patterson has emerged as a true multi-threat talent, and the Minnesota running game is still in good hands. The Vikes lead the NFL with 22 rushing touchdowns this season. Maybe the most surprising part of that stat is that Adrian Peterson has scored fewer than half. Peterson has 10, and five other players have combined for 12 more.
27. Oakland Raiders (4-11, LW: 28): The Stat: 102.3. It’s no surprise why the Raiders give up so many points. Their pass defense is atrocious. Oakland is one of just two teams in the NFL giving up a QB rating of more than 100. The only team worse is the Falcons. The Raiders are also 29th in touchdowns passes against (29), and 30th in interceptions (9). All risk, no reward.
28. Cleveland Browns (4-11, LW: 27): The Stat: 9.4. The Browns may have mailed it in two months ago in the win-loss column, but the defense is still keeping most opponents out of the end zone. The Browns give up a score on 9.4% of drives, 4th best in the NFL. One of the problems is that they’ve also faced the 4th most drives, meaning even though the percentage is low, they’re still giving up a decent amount of points.
29. Atlanta Falcons (4-11, LW: 29): The Stat: 3. The Falcons signed Osi Umenyiora in the offseason in hopes of bolstering the pass rushing unit. Hasn’t happened. Atlanta entered Monday night’s game last in the league with 28 sacks. They were able to take down Colin Kaepernick three times, though, bringing them up to 25th overall.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11, LW: 30): The Stat: 54.6. Coming into the season everyone knew Maurice Jones-Drew would have to carry the offense if the Jags were going to do much offensively. Unfortunately for 4-11 Jacksonville, he hasn’t been able to do that. In 14 games, Jones-Drew has averaged 54.6 rushing yards, his worst as a feature back. His 3.5 yards per carry is the lowest of his career.
31. Washington Redskins (3-12, LW: 31): The Stat: 107. It’s not all bad for the Skins. Pierre Garcon posted 11 receptions against Dallas, giving him the franchise single season mark with 107 catches. That snaps the record of 106 set by Art Monk in 1984. Garcon and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown are the only two receivers in the league with five or more receptions in every game this season.
32. Houston Texans (2-13, LW: 32): The Stat: 13. The Texans are only the 2nd team to lose 13 or more games just a season after winning 12 or more. The 1994 Oilers went from 12-4 to 2-14. That ended a streak of seven straight playoff seasons for the Oilers. If Houston loses at Tennessee this week, they’ll match that feat, though the Texans have gone to the postseason just two years in a row.