NFL Power Rankings: Grades and Analysis Going into Week 15
Week 14 was insane, which leads to Week 15 NFL power rankings getting shaken up quite a bit.
Considering all that occurred this past weekend, the New England Patriots stood out the most.
Winning in dominant fashion over the Houston Texans on Monday, Tom Brady and the Pats are one step close to the AFC's No.1 seed. At the very least expect New England to earn another January bye.
Still, with the playoffs closing and plenty yet to be decided, here are full power rankings and grades as we approach mid December.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11)
Jamaal Charles has been the lone bright spot for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012.
Unfortunately, K.C. has not been able to work a consistent passing game to remain balanced.
The win over the Carolina Panthers was beyond impressive, especially because of the given circumstances. Now, however, the Chiefs must still to continue looking forward and hope the 2013 offseason can lead somewhere positive.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
After nearly upsetting Houston and then winning over Tennessee, the Jacksonville Jaguars looked on the upswing.
It was then back to the reality of 2012 and the Jags have lost two straight.
Neither side of the line plays with consistency, so it's no surprise to see Jacksonville getting a high draft pick.
30. Oakland Raiders (3-10)
The Oakland Raiders currently ride a six-game losing streak.
In addition, the Raiders host K.C. this week and a loss would put Oakland at the bottom of the AFC West.
Given that Oakland beat Pittsburgh in Week 3, the Raiders were not able to build from that victory. And finishing 3-13 would not be surprising.
29. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)
There's nothing positive to say about the Arizona Cardinals.
Losing 58-0 and turning the ball over eight times is straight-up sad.
Now on a nine-game losing streak, the Cardinals don't have a chance in their final three games. Based on how Arizona has performed of recent, finishing worse than 4-12 is quite possible next season.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9)
Nick Foles has gradually proven to be the real deal.
Since stepping in for Michael Vick, Foles continues to develop and everything finally clicked on Sunday.
Winning over the playoff hopeful Buccaneers, he didn't turn the ball over and led a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback. Whether anyone wants to acknowledge it, Foles is the future in Philly.
27. Tennessee Titans (4-9)
Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans are 1-5 in their last six games.
Even worse, four of these five losses have come within the division.
For a brief period Johnson was rolling on the ground with excellent consistency, but that has since slowed down. So, without a reliable passing game and defense, don't expect much from Tennessee for the remainder of 2012.
26. Detroit Lions (4-9)
Although the Detroit Lions are 4-9, they have faced a rather difficult schedule in the process.
The NFC North is one of pro football's toughest divisions right now and Detroit rides a five-game skid.
On the bright side, we've seen the Lions' potential in wins over the Rams and Seahawks. Undoubtedly has 2012 been a disappointment, but numerous close losses can be flipped to victories provided a strong draft happens in April.
25. Carolina Panthers (4-9)
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are an enigma.
At their worst, the Panthers lost to the Chiefs, albeit during tough circumstances.
At their best, however, Carolina managed to upset the Falcons and previously defeated the Redskins in Washington. To that end, consistency must be proven by the Panthers.
Though, until proved otherwise, little can be expected.
24. Miami Dolphins (5-8)
At the middle of the season, the Miami Dolphins were 4-3 and two of those losses had come in overtime.
Then, Ryan Tannehill and Co. dropped a nail-biter to Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 9.
Including that loss, Miami has gone 1-5 since and is in a slumber. Fortunately, the 'Fins host the Jaguars and Bills these next two weeks. Tannehill has proven to be the future, but the rushing attack and pass defense must significantly improve.
23. San Diego Chargers (5-8)
The San Diego Chargers finally got a meaningful victory in 2012.
Taking out the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Bolts improve to 5-8 after losing four consecutive.
Even better, the pass protection held up and the defense tightened up on third down. Factor in three winnable games remaining, and San Diego closing out .500 will provide optimism for 2013.
22. Cleveland Browns (5-8)
The Cleveland Browns are one of pro football's most confident teams entering Week 15.
Currently sporting a three-game winning streak, Cleveland is now 5-8 and barely alive for the postseason.
Now yes, a lot must happen for the Browns to miraculously qualify for January. Nonetheless, we're seeing Cleveland begin to win close games and put away inferior teams.
As a result, a 7-9 finish and taking second place in the AFC North is not out of the question.
21. Buffalo Bills (5-8)
Losing at home to the Rams was a rough loss for the Buffalo Bills.
The ground game was stuffed to only 61 yards and Buffalo went a measly 3-of-12 on third down.
For as explosive as the Bills have proven to be, however, the tougher and more physical defenses have been able to shut down Spiller and Co. At least the defense has gotten better, though, which bodes well for a promising 2013 campaign.
The concern is whether Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the answer under center.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneeers (6-7)
Just when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were thinking postseason, in come the Eagles to spoil everything.
Tampa Bay is now on a three-game losing streak and sits two games back of the NFC Wild Card.
Not to mention, the Bucs need a significant amount of help to make the playoffs. After all, Tampa does not have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys or Redskins.
In short, the horrendous pass defense is costing Tampa now more than ever.
19. New Orleans Saints (5-8)
Beginning 0-4 was simply too much for the New Orleans Saints to overcome.
Drew Brees got his team to fight back in the middle of the season, but three straight losses have NOLA at 5-8.
On a team that is facing a rather difficult schedule and without a reliable defense, Brees and the offense can only carry for so long. Plus, being a one-dimensional offense isn't enough to consistently defeat playoff contenders—especially the Giants.
18. New York Jets (6-7)
Somehow, some way, the New York Jets are in position for an AFC Wild Card.
And for as much as anyone knocks on Gang Green, one thing we do not see from the Jets are losses to inferior teams.
Yes, New York fell to Miami. But the Jets also defeated the Dolphins early on. The rest of Rex Ryan's losses in 2012 are to the Patriots (twice), 49ers, Texans, Seahawks and Steelers—all legit losses.
This team is not impressive and it wins ugly, which continues to pay off as three winnable contests remain.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)
The 2012 season is crashing down on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After starting out a strong 6-3, Pittsburgh is just 1-3 over the past four games and Week 14 was abysmal.
Now, the Steelers are fighting for the playoff lives with the Bengals and Jets on their heels. The defense has gradually regressed and the offense remains in a funk, regardless of who is under center.
Playing at the Dallas Cowboys this week, we'll learn a great deal of Pittsburgh's 2012 fate thereafter.
16. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
Adrian Peterson is carrying the Minnesota Vikings offense.
Fortunately, Minnesota also fields a confident defense with Jared Allen to stuff the run and apply quarterback pressure.
It's a tough road ahead for Minnesota; however, because the Vikings face the Rams (away), Texans (away) and Packers to finish the year.
In other words, the passing game must come around or Minnesota will just miss out on January.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)
And the roller-coaster season of the Cincinnati Bengals continues.
Andy Dalton's team began 0-1, won three straight, dropped four consecutive, won four consecutive and is back in the loser's column.
The good news? Finding a rhythm during the middle of the season and rolling off key wins.
The bad news? Continuing on the roller-coaster pattern will not make the postseason. Cincy must finish at least 9-7; otherwise the second AFC Wild Card playoffs is going to either the Steelers or Jets.
14. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)
The St. Louis Rams have been one intriguing team this season.
Despite losses to the Jets, Dolphins and Lions, Jeff Fisher's team is 4-0-1 in the NFC West.
Also, St. Louis has rolled off three straight wins and faces a manageable schedule. After hosting the Vikings this week, the Rams close out with two road games against the Buccaneers and Seahawks.
Even with their unpredictability, though, the Rams are legit because of a tough defense and punishing ground game.
13. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
Just like the Chiefs displayed in Week 14, the Dallas Cowboys won despite facing unimaginable circumstances.
The end result is Dallas positioned well for the postseason.
The Cowboys are 4-1 over their previous five games and are hosting the Steelers and Saints the next two weeks. Although the division is a long shot, the NFC Wild Card is not as Chicago continues to plunder.
12. Washington Redskins (7-6)
Kirk Cousins is proving to be an unsung hero for the 2012 Washington Redskins.
He played well in the preseason and nearly led Washington over Atlanta back in early October.
Robert Griffin III is without question Washington's best player and one of the NFL's most electric quarterbacks. Don't, however, fall asleep on Cousins whenever he gets in the game, as was proven in Week 14.
The Redskins now are in excellent position to sneak into the playoffs, and the favorable schedule ahead calls for a potential 10-6 finish.
11. Chicago Bears (8-5)
The Chicago Bears are in the same position as the Steelers: Their season is tumbling and fast.
That said, the Windy City remains in the NFC playoff picture despite losing four of its last five.
And although the Bears host the confident Packers in Week 15, expected victories thereafter are against the Cardinals and Lions. The division title is on the line this week, but missing out on that will not doom Chicago's postseason hopes.
10. Baltimore Ravens (9-4)
The Baltimore Ravens are 9-4, but you wouldn't think that based on the last four games.
For one, Baltimore has dropped two straight and faces three rough games in the Broncos, Giants and Bengals to close out the season.
Secondly, the Ravens underperformed when defeating the Steelers and Chargers on the road. The defense still allows an average of 376 total yards per game, and the offense has scored over 30 points just once in the previous seven contests (Oakland, Week 10).
Obviously making the postseason is the first goal, but Baltimore won't last long based on recent outings.
9. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
Excluding the hiccup loss at the Dolphins, the Seattle Seahawks are playing with great consistency of recent.
Also, Russell Wilson and Co. are putting to rest the fluke win over the Packers in Week 3.
Even if we give that victory to Green Bay, Seattle is still in the NFC's playoff picture. Pete Carroll's defense is unbelievably confident, and Marshawn Lynch keeps slamming on the ground.
Three tough games remain, but Seattle has proven to be resilient above all else.
8. New York Giants (8-5)
Should we be surprised?
The New York Giants are winning late in the season after a brief midseason slump.
Obviously the road loss at Washington was tough, but Big Blue responded nicely by getting a key win over the Saints. We will learn more about the Giants these next two weeks, though, because playing at the Falcons and Ravens in consecutive weeks will be challenging.
Regardless, as long as Eli Manning makes the postseason, the rest of the NFL better look out.
7. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)
Andrew Luck's innate ability to lead the Indianapolis Colts in the waning minutes keeps paying extreme dividends.
No, Luck's numbers aren't insanely dominant like RG3's or overly efficient like Russell Wilson's.
But this guy is winning and doing it with consistency. Luck isn't backed by a strong defense or sick ground game by comparison. Plus, his team was 2-14 in 2011.
So, this kind of immediate turnaround simply comes from confidence, and the Colts have plenty of it.
6. Green Bay Packers (9-4)
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers began the season 2-3 and needing to find a rhythm.
Well, the Pack are 7-1 since then and logged wins over the Texans, Rams and Vikings.
Getting smashed on the road against the Giants need not cause concern, because Green Bay just played a bad game. Now yes, the Packers did get fortunate against the Lions.
We still cannot discount the Pack, though, as they are expected to get healthier defensively.
Coach Mike McCarthysaid Monday he is "hopeful" both [Clay] Matthews (hamstring) and safety Charles Woodson(collarbone) will practice and play this week. It appears the Packers will be getting back their best defensive player.
5. Denver Broncos (10-3)
The Denver Broncos are on an eight-game winning streak and have already clinched the AFC West.
Sporting a 10-3 record, the Broncos can be overlooked as only two wins come over teams currently with a winning record (Steelers, Bengals).
On the contrary, though, Denver does not have a bad loss and only fell to the Falcons, Texans and Patriots because of turnovers. The Broncos have not peaked yet in 2012, but the defense continues to improve across the board.
Traveling to the Ravens in Week 15, this is Denver's final big test before the postseason.
4. Atlanta Falcons (11-2)
Losing the battle at the line of scrimmage continues to plague the Atlanta Falcons.
To this point, Atlanta still allows an average of 4.9 yards per carry while only getting 3.7.
Therefore, it wasn't surprising to see the Panthers pull the Week 14 upset. Hosting the Giants this week, Atlanta's true identity will get revealed against a physical defense and balanced offense.
And if the Dirty Birds are to become Super Bowl contenders, beating the defending champions is imperative.
3. Houston Texans (11-2)
Another big game and another big loss for the Houston Texans.
The Patriots simply pummeled Houston on Monday night, and its inability to defend the pass raises concern.
Now, the Texans rank No. 19 in pass defense and have been torched on four different occasions (Aaron Rodgers, Chad Henne, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady). With two games remaining against the Colts and the Vikings sandwiched between, Houston's odds for a January bye week are in jeopardy.
Even then, failing miserably in pass defense will cost Houston in the postseason.
2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)
The San Francisco 49ers always have a chance to win, because Jim Harbaugh's team can run the ball and play defense.
Aside from down performances against the Giants and Rams the 'Niners have been consistent across the board.
What's more impressive is that it doesn't matter whether Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick is under center. We will, however, learn more of the 49ers against the Patriots this week and the Seahawks in Week 16.
For San Francisco to take that next step, defeating Tom Brady in New England must occur.
1. New England Patriots (10-3)
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at No. 1 should not come as a surprise.
They just obliterated the Texans and have rolled on seven straight wins.
On an unfathomable scale, though, all three of New England's losses come by a combined four points. That's just how close the 2012 Pats are to perfection.
Bill Belichick's defense remains opportunistic and keeping Arian Foster in check was impressive. The Patriots hosting the 49ers in Week 15 on Sunday night will be an ever strong test, as it's a legit Super Bowl preview against the NFL's best defense.
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