NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: AFC Playoff Spots Wide Open
We're already down to the final three weeks of the NFL season, and the AFC playoff picture is still a mess.
A whopping nine teams (New England, Miami, New York Jets, Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Denver) are all within two games of one another.
Meanwhile, the Saints and Colts both head into short weeks still unbeaten, both at 13-0.
1. Indianapolis Colts (13-0)
While they were challenged by the Broncos in the second half, the Colts were able to hold them off on their way to their 22nd consecutive regular season win, an NFL record.
While they have home field advantage throughout the playoffs already locked up, the Colts can deliver a huge blow to Jacksonville's playoff hopes with another win Thursday night in Florida.
2. New Orleans Saints (13-0)
They were able to pull out a close one in Atlanta, and now head home to the Superdome to face the swooning Cowboys.
Had the Falcons driven down the field and scored on their last possession, Sean Payton's curious fake field goal call would look quite "Belichickian" this week.
3. Minnesota Vikings (11-2)
The Vikes rebounded from their loss to the Cardinals with a clubbing of the Bengals at home.
They're still mathematically alive for home field throughout the NFC playoffs, but they'll have to win-out, which won't be easy.
Their remaining three: at Carolina, at Chicago, v. New York Giants.
4. San Diego Chargers (10-3)
The Chargers are absolutely rolling and have now won eight straight games.
Philip Rivers is now 16-0 in his career in December, and the Chargers have officially reached "team nobody wants to play" status.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)
Philly has won four straight, and is now alone atop the NFC East with three to play.
DeSean Jackson has become the NFC's version of Chris Johnson: a playmaker capable of taking it the distance every time he touches the ball.
Jackson has tied an NFL record with eight touchdowns of 50 yards or more this season.
6. Green Bay Packers (9-4)
The Packers have won five in a row, and Aaron Rodgers has asserted himself as a player worthy of MVP consideration.
Rodgers has thrown for 3,579 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)
The Bengals are a tough team to figure out, as evidenced by their smashing at the hands of the Vikings Sunday.
They'll be tested once again this week, when they have to travel to San Diego to face the red-hot Chargers.
8. Arizona Cardinals (8-5)
Arizona turned the ball over seven times on their way to an uninspiring 24-9 loss in San Francisco.
The Cardinals' leading receiver last night?
Early Doucet, who caught two passes for 41 yards.
9. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
Cowboys' fans can officially panic now, as Dallas' December struggles continue.
The Cowboys will now head down to New Orleans Saturday night to face the 13-0 Saints.
After that, they have to travel to Washington to play the Redskins and then play the Eagles in the season finale at home.
If the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs this season after starting 8-3, it will have been their most epic collapse to date.
10. Denver Broncos (8-5)
Brandon Marshall's record-setting day wasn't enough to help Denver dethrone the unbeaten Colts.
However, the Broncos' prospects for making the playoffs are still good, considering they still have home games remaining with both the Chiefs and the Raiders.
11. New England Patriots (8-5)
They were able to take care of business against the Panthers, but it certainly wasn't an easy task.
There are questions abound about Randy Moss' commitment to the team, as he had just one catch for 16 yards Sunday.
12. New York Giants (7-6)
Because of the two-game sweep of the Cowboys, if the Giants win out, they're assured of a playoff berth.
Their final three games: at Washington, v. Carolina, at Minnesota.
There's a good chance that the Week 17 game against the Vikings won't mean much to Minnesota, so perhaps this schedule isn't as daunting as it may appear at first glance.
13. Miami Dolphins (7-6)
The Dolphins took a huge step towards a playoff berth with Sunday's 14-10 win at Jacksonville.
They've gone 7-3 since a subpar start, and have put themselves in position to potentially steal a division title from the Patriots.
14. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
The Ravens took a step towards the playoffs with Sunday's dominating win over the hapless Lions.
Ray Rice surpassed the 1,000 rushing yards mark in that game and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6)
The Jags had to beat Miami Sunday in order to realistically stay alive in the AFC playoff race.
With their next two against the Colts and Patriots, it seems as though their Cinderella-type run could be coming to an end.
16. New York Jets (7-6)
New York has quietly won three in a row and faces the Falcons this weekend in a make-or-break game for both teams.
After that they'll be facing the Colts and Bengals, who could be resting their starters for the playoffs by then.
17. Tennessee Titans (6-7)
Chris Johnson continued his march towards 2,000 yards rushing with his 117 yard effort against the Rams Sunday.
Johnson is 374 yards shy of 2,000 with three games left to play.
18. Houston Texans (6-7)
The Texans did what they do best in dominating the Seahawks 34-7 Sunday: looking spectacular in games that essentially mean nothing.
Andre Johnson continued his assault on the NFL against Seattle, catching 11 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
19. Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
The Falcons were quite competitive Sunday against New Orleans, falling 26-23.
While Mark Redman fared pretty well, the Falcons need Matt Ryan to get back into the lineup as soon as possible.
20. San Francisco 49ers (6-7)
The Niners' defense looked phenomenal in forcing Arizona into seven turnovers Monday night, and Frank Gore had a field day running the football as well.
While they're still a major longshot for the playoffs, San Francisco has to be pleased with what they've been able to develop this season.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7)
The Steelers continued their free-fall in losing to the awful Browns last Thursday night, stretching their losing streak to five games.
The defending champs are likely not going to make the playoffs, and losses to the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns have contributed to what has turned into one of the most embarrassing seasons in franchise history.
22. Carolina Panthers (5-8)
As if Carolina's season hasn't been rough enough, their last remaining schedule is likely the toughest in the league.
Their final three: v. Minnesota, at New York Giants, v. New Orleans Saints.
23. Chicago Bears (5-8)
After the obligatory win over the Rams the previous week, the Bears got back to their losing ways in a 21-14 loss to Green Bay.
Jay Cutler's performance?
Not so bad: 23-36, 209 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions.
24. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)
The Seahawks were obliterated by the Texans Sunday, and the game was all-but decided after just one play from scrimmage.
On the first play of the game, the Seahawks gave up a 64-yard touchdown bomb to Andre Johnson, and the game was never in doubt from there.
25. Buffalo Bills (5-8)
The Bills went into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs 16-10 in what had to be the most boring game of the weekend.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has now thrown for under 100 yards in two straight games.
26. Washington Redskins (4-9)
Jason Campbell has come alive in his last four games, throwing for 256, 231, 367, and 222 yards, respectively.
The Redskins are playing solid football right now, but will it be enough to save Jim Zorn?
27. Oakland Raiders (4-9)
It seemed as though their game against the Redskins was over once Bruce Gradkowski went down and JaMarcus Russell had to come in and play.
However, Russell's stats weren't even terrible: 10-16 for 74 yards with an interception.
If Russell can complete passes at that rate on a regular basis, maybe he can start to show some improvement and actually look like an NFL player.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (3-10)
The Chiefs face the Browns this weekend in a game that could actually be more useless than KC's last game against the Bills.
A bright spot for the Chiefs? Jamaal Charles has rushed for 605 yards on 116 carries (5.2 ypc) and four touchdowns this season.
29. Detroit Lions (2-11)
Detroit was awful in every facet of the game in their 48-3 blowout loss to the Ravens.
They had no passing game, no running game, and forced no turnovers on defense.
Not exactly a formula for victory.
30. Cleveland Browns (2-11)
The Browns were able to shock the world and pull off a stunner in beating the Steelers, all but ending Pittsburgh's playoff hopes last Thursday night.
With their game in Kansas City this weekend, might the Browns actually win two straight?
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12)
With the Browns winning their second game, it's looking like it will be a battle between the Bucs and Rams for number one pick in April's draft.
32. St. Louis Rams (1-12)
If they land the first pick, is there any guarantee they would take Ndamukong Suh, the player everyone seems to be convinced will go first overall?
The Rams don't have any semblance of a franchise-type quarterback on the current roster, and could be looking to improve that area before anything else.
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