NFL Power Rankings: Biggest Shortcomings on Each Team Heading into Week 17

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

After 16 weeks of NFL football, there is still a lot left to be decided. All that we do know is that no one is perfect.

While some teams are jockeying for playoff positions in the final week of the regular season, others are still trying to make the most out of a lost year. Regardless of where teams stand, all of them can look at a few problems that have cost them dearly.

For the squads looking to go deep into the postseason, they better hope that these problems do not linger.


1. Denver Broncos

The Broncos reach the top spot in the postseason after winning 10 straight games. However, the competition in the second half of the schedule has been significantly weaker than it was in the first half.

Denver lost early games to the Falcons, Texans and Patriots. While the team has improved in all areas since this point, it still has not proven it can beat the best the league has to offer. 


2. Atlanta Falcons

In the last two weeks, the Falcons have been playing as well as they have all year. The 34-0 victory over the Giants was a thing of beauty. 

However, it will be difficult to win in the playoffs without a run game. Atlanta ranks No. 28 in the league in rushing and Michael Turner has struggled throughout most of the season. This will hurt the team's ability to control the football in the postseason.


3. Green Bay Packers

As winners of eight of the last nine games, the Packers are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL. The problem is that they are vulnerable against teams that can bring pressure.

Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times in each loss against the Giants and Colts, and was taken down eight times in the loss to the Seahawks. The offensive line must find a way to protect him. 


4. New England Patriots

One only has to look at the last two weeks to see that the secondary of the Patriots has some serious issues. Chad Henne passed for 348 yards last week, while Colin Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes against this defense. 

Just imagine what someone like Peyton Manning can do to this team. 


5. Houston Texans

Although the Houston Texans will likely grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC, there is no reason for this team to feel confident heading into the playoffs.

Starting with the Week 11 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the defense has been torched through the air by everyone from Tom Brady to Chad Henne.

They were also shut down offensively by the Patriots, which is something that should raise a red flag. 

If Arian Foster is healthy, the Texans need to make sure he gets on track. The entire offense works based on his running ability, so they cannot afford anything less than 100 percent from the Pro Bowl back. 


6. San Francisco 49ers

Despite the blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it is important not to forget that this same squad beat the Patriots just one week before.

Still, the defense is not as invisible as it originally seemed after allowing 76 points in the last two games. Both sides of the football need to tighten up play before the playoffs. 


7. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have outscored opponents 150-30 over the past few games and look nearly unstoppable. However, Seattle has been much better at home (7-0) than on the road (3-5) this year. 

It will take better effort on the road to advance in the playoffs.


8. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore finally ended its three-game losing streak, but everything will come down to the play of Joe Flacco.

According to QBR, which rates quarterback play from 0-100, Flacco has four outstanding games this year with a rating over 90. Unfortunately, he also has two embarrassing performances of games less than one. He will decide how far the Ravens go this year.


9. Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III can score against any defense in the league. The issue is that he cannot play cornerback also. 

Only two teams have allowed more passing yards than the Redskins this year and any good quarterback will be able to beat this secondary. The biggest test will be Tony Romo on Sunday.


10. Indianapolis Colts

There have been few better stories in the NFL this season than the Colts surprising run to the playoffs. The only issue is the team's lack of experience going forward.

With a rookie quarterback, rookie running back and a number of other rookies making big impacts, it might be too much pressure for them in the playoffs.


11. Cincinnati Bengals

The biggest problem with the Bengals season is that it took them too long to realize they were good. Cincinnati faced four rookie quarterbacks in the first six games but only managed a 3-3 record. By the time they were 3-5, it made it very difficult to come back.

This team will be in the playoffs, but a poor seed will give it little chance to advance. 


12. Minnesota Vikings

Considering Christian Ponder has not thrown for more than 200 yards since Week 10, it is safe to say Adrian Peterson deserves to be MVP for getting his team on the brink of the playoffs. On the other hand, it will be difficult to count on the running back's production in Week 17 and possibly the postseason. 


13. Dallas Cowboys

Surprisingly, Tony Romo is not the person to blame. In fact, he and Dez Bryant are two of the only players that are playing to their ability at this point of the year.

If the defense could possibly stop anyone, the Cowboys might have a chance at making the playoffs. 


14. Chicago Bears

As good as the Bears were in the beginning of the season, they were too reliant on scoring from the defense. Chicago started 7-1 and had eight defensive touchdowns in the seven wins. 

This is difficult to count on throughout the course of the year, and the unit had zero over the next six weeks, where the squad went 1-5.

The Bears offense was exposed during this stretch, averaging only 14.2 points per game. 

Chicago has some of the best defensive playmakers in the NFL, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Charles Tillman. However, the team will end its season earlier than expected because it cannot rely on the offense to be productive. 


15. New York Giants

There is no team more inconsistent in the NFL than the New York Giants. They have the talent to blow out the Packers and Saints, but the lack of concentration to lose games when they need wins. Still, you cannot count this team out until the very end. 


16. St. Louis Rams

The Rams did their best with what they had this season, but the schedule was simply too much to overcome. A road loss to Miami was followed by consecutive games against the Packers, Patriots and 49ers.

Even though that stretch ended in a tie, it was too much to overcome. 


17. New Orleans Saints

Football is a true team sport. Even with one of the top quarterbacks in the game, it is near impossible to win with the worst overall defense in the league. You can blame Bountygate for the distraction, but this was on the defense. 


18. Miami Dolphins

During the course of the year Ryan Tannehill showed glimpses of being a solid quarterback. However, the rest of the year proved that he is still very raw and needs experience.

It is difficult to win by throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns. 


19. Pittsburgh Steelers

You never want to blame injuries for poor play. Every team in every sport has to deal with this problem.

However, the Steelers had an unusually tough run with injuries this season. Not only did quarterback Ben Roethlisberger miss time, but every running back on the roster missed some time.

In addition, the offense missed a key piece with Antonio Brown out for a few weeks, not to mention various parts of the offensive line. 

This would not be too bad if the defense stayed healthy, but James Harrison and Troy Polamalu were on and off the field all year.

After everything went wrong, this simply became a lost year for Pittsburgh. 


20. Carolina Panthers

If Cam Newton played all year like he has in the past month, the Panthers would have clinched a playoff spot by now. Unfortunately, bad decision-making and poor accuracy in the first half of the year cost Carolina the season. 


21. San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers was once one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. That seems like a long time ago after he could not get the offense going all year.

Only three teams were able to total fewer yards than the Chargers this season. 


22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At times, the Buccaneers had the look of a top offense with Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson putting up huge numbers. However, the quarterback held the team back with turnovers, especially with eight interceptions in the last two weeks.

Of course, the terrible pass defense did not help either.


23. New York Jets

You can blame the team's lack of ability to stop the run with consistency as a reason for the squad's struggles. However, that is just a microcosm of the true problems that went on during this season. 

From the end of last season, a constant stream of distractions from both inside and out of the organization ruined any chance for a successful year.

Mark Sanchez was simply awful, ranking 37th out of 38 qualified players in Total QBR. Still, he remained the starting quarterback for most of the season.

Tim Tebow simply being on the roster did nothing but hurt the team as well.

The head coach needs to be able to control what happens inside the locker room, and Rex Ryan simply did not do that this season.


24. Cleveland Browns

The Browns have a lot to build on for the future, but it will need to decide quickly if Brandon Weeden will be there long term. 

A 29-year-old rookie will not be given too much time to figure out the league.


25. Tennessee Titans

Add the Titans to the list of teams searching for a quarterback. In the last five games, Jake Locker only had one game with fewer than two interceptions. He should get another chance, but the leash is short. 


26. Buffalo Bills

C.J. Spiller has the ability to be one of the top running backs in the NFL. His 6.5 yards per carry was the best mark in the NFL among players at his position. 

The issue is that he only got 183 carries all year. Next season, Buffalo must make sure he gets the football as often as possible.


27. Philadelphia Eagles

After coming into the year with high expectations, it seems like the Eagles gave up too early. The team was 3-3 when it fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and things got worse at this point.

The entire coaching staff must be changed, and hopefully it is someone that can motivate the talented players on the roster. 


28. Detroit Lions

There is enough talent on this squad to win double-digit games every year, but the lack of discipline cost it a number of close battles. Coach Jim Schwartz needs to be a leader on and off the field, or else next year will look very similar. 


29. Arizona Cardinals

Arizona will have a tough decision to make in the draft. The Cardinals need a quarterback for the future, but the team will not go anywhere until it improves the dreadful offensive line.

You can blame either for the lack of success this season, but the key will be to make sure it does not happen again. 


30. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders could not run or stop the run. Usually, that does not lead to a successful season. 


31. Kansas City Chiefs

Anyone who watched a single game of the Kansas City Chiefs this year can easily say that their biggest problem was turnovers. The Chiefs ranked dead last in the NFL with a minus-25 turnover differential.

Hopefully, the next quarterback will be able to hold onto the football.


32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Maurice Jones-Drew only played in six games this season, but he easily leads the team in rushing yards. The entire squad combined would only rank No. 7 in the NFL in rushing.

There were a number of issues, but the lack of a run threat ruined any chance the team had at winning games.



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