As the first round of the 2015-16 postseason came to an end, the NFL had to be pleased with the results. With the exception of the Kansas City Chiefs-Houston Texans game—which didn’t have high expectations anyway, with Houston barely winning the brutal AFC South—the matchups on Wild Card Weekend lived up to the hype, with two coming down to game-deciding field-goal attempts.
But even with the chaos and dramatic finishes that happened in the first round of the playoffs, there isn’t much change at the top of the power rankings among Super Bowl favorites. Perhaps the only team to be eliminated that was widely considered a contender was the Cincinnati Bengals, and their playoff history didn’t allow much room for hope.
Still, with only eight teams remaining in the playoffs, there has been some separation and clarity has been added to a once muddy title race. The Chiefs proved they are legit, and the Seattle Seahawks barely escaped with a win, but did manage to move on to challenge the No. 1 seed in the Carolina Panthers.
As the playoffs move on to the second round and teams vie for spots in their respective conference title games, let’s look at the updated NFL power rankings and see which teams were the biggest risers and fallers of the weekend.
|Updated Playoff Records|
|Green Bay Packers||11-6|
|New England Patriots||12-4|
|Kansas City Chiefs||12-5|
|NFL Power Rankings|
|5||New England Patriots|
|6||Kansas City Chiefs|
|7||Green Bay Packers|
|12||New York Jets|
|19||New Orleans Saints|
|21||St. Louis Rams|
|23||New York Giants|
|24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|28||San Diego Chargers|
|29||San Francisco 49ers|
Biggest Risers and Fallers
Riser: Green Bay Packers
It has been a while, but the Green Bay Packers finally looked like themselves again against Washington, and it was a refreshing sight for Cheeseheads around the country.
Despite being without Jordy Nelson this season, Green Bay started off the year as one of the best teams in the league, but saw a terrible drop-off with a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season and ended the year with a pair of losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings.
The 30-point defeat at the hands of Arizona was the worst of it, but the Packers were back to their old ways against Washington, pulling away in the second half for a comfortable win. With a rematch against the Cardinals next up, Green Bay needed to bounce back in a big way. Sunday night it did just that, setting up what could be a huge clash in the divisional round.
Faller: Cincinnati Bengals
If it weren’t for their fellow Ohioans—the Cleveland Browns—the Cincinnati Bengals would likely be one of the most joked-about teams in the NFL. There seems to be a witch’s curse hanging over the team when it comes to the playoffs, but even that couldn’t describe what happened Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
After completing an epic comeback and seemingly getting the postseason monkey off their back, the Bengals saw a series of events unfold that most scriptwriters wish they could come up with. A fumble by Bengals running back Jeremy Hill led to a final drive by an injured Ben Roethlisberger to potentially steal the win back from Cincinnati.
A pair of penalties on the last drive against Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones set up the game-winning field goal and saw the Bengals bow out of the playoffs in arguably the most unceremonious way possible. The regular season saw Cincinnati play some of the best football in the league this year, but once again the playoffs proved to be an impossible task. The Bengals will have to wait another year to end their postseason losing streak.
Faller: Pittsburgh Steelers
First things first. Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers won against the Bengals despite hostile—that is putting it lightly—conditions, but they absolutely didn’t deserve to. Saturday’s game was a case of the Bengals losing the game, not the Steelers winning it.
But the real reason Pittsburgh is in the fallers category is that, even in victory, the Steelers managed to come out as losers. The team was equally as guilty for an embarrassing display of sportsmanship while also potentially losing its two best players.
A concussion to wideout Antonio Brown on the game-changing play in the fourth quarter and a sprained AC joint for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made the ugly win even uglier for Pittsburgh. Even if the Steelers get both of their superstars back—not that too far-fetched an idea—overcoming the Denver Broncos could be incredibly difficult with their leaders at less than 100 percent.