The NFL Power Rankings for Week 15 STILL feature two undefeated teams in the Saints and Colts, two red hot teams in the Chargers and Packers, as well as the Bucs and Rams who just can’t get out of their own way. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…
1. New Orleans Saints (13-0)— Yet another tight one for the Saints who stretched their franchise win record in a season to 13 games. New Orleans clutch third-down conversions (8 of 12) allowed them to finish off key scoring drives in the three-point win. A key matchup against the Cowboys looms this week and could determine a big portion of the NFC playoff picture.
2. Indianapolis Colts (13-0) —Despite Peyton Manning’s three INTs and Brandon Marshall owning the football for much of the game, the Colts came out on top again. Style points are of no concern when they are allowing the second least points in the NFL—a rare tip of the cap to this defense is deserved. Thursday night against the Jags has every fantasy owner associated with a Colts player worried about early benching but all should be well for this week at least.
3. Minnesota Vikings (11-2)— The Vikings bounced back nicely after the Arizona loss by pummeling the Bengals 30-10 in the Metrodome. The Vikes eliminated the Cincy passing game and were efficient on the offensive side all day. They can lock up the NFC North with a win over the Panthers and a Packers loss this Sunday.
4. San Diego Chargers (10-3)— Not only have the Chargers won eight games in a row but they have run off 16 straight in December dating back to 2005, an NFL record. A good road win over Dallas should translate into even more momentum when they host the Bengals this Sunday.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)— A big win for the Eagles but allowing 512 yards of offense and 38 points will not be acceptable come January. DeSean Jackson may be the most explosive WR in the league and can contribute in ways that could make him dangerous all throughout the playoffs. Next up: 49ers.
6. Green Bay Packers (9-4)— Ryan Grant paced the rushing attack with 137 yards and two scores as the Pack won its fifth game in a row over the rival Bears. The defense had another great game as they held Chicago to only 254 yards and forced two turnovers. They head to Pittsburgh to maintain the hot streak this week.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)— QB Carson Palmer was shut down by the Vikings in a miserable performance that saw the Bengals throw for only 94 yards. Moving on to this week, they can clinch the AFC North with a win at San Diego, a tall order against a scorching hot Chargers’ squad, but it will serve as a measuring stick for the playoffs.
8. Arizona Cardinals (8-5)— Seven was not a lucky number for the Cardinals against the 49ers on Monday night. Turning the ball over that many times is a guaranteed loss in this league. The Lions are nice team to bounce back against; it could get ugly in Detroit as Arizona tries to wash this taste out of their mouth.
9. Denver Broncos (8-5)— The spotlight shone brightly on Brandon Marshall but the day belonged to the Colts. Marshall’s NFL-record 21 catches were not enough to get key conversions on third (6 for 17) or fourth (0 for 3) down and left them short on converting Peyton Manning’s three INTs. They host the Raiders this week to try and get back on track.
10. New England Patriots (8-5)— All the controversy surrounding the Pats’ win over Carolina was focused on Randy Moss and whether or not he quit. The fact that they actually won seems obscured but there is no question that New England is not very sharp right now. They still lead the division by one game and will travel to Buffalo to keep that buffer intact.
11. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)— The "December Dallas Woes" story is old, I admit, but they have to win at some point for us to stop talking about it, right? That’s what I thought… One for eight on third down is not going to cut it against good teams like San Diego. Heading to New Orleans is a heck of a way to try to stop a two-game skid but Dallas is desperate—they may need it badly to make the playoffs.
12. New York Giants (7-6)— The Giants roll up 500 yards of offense with Eli Manning throwing for 391 and three TDs and they lose? Say it ain’t so. Philly was opportunistic in all three phases and outpaced the Giants to sweep them on the season. The G-Men will be fighting for their playoff lives in D.C this Monday night.
13. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) —The Ravens rushed for a staggering 7.7 yards per carry and 308 yards on the day in a 48-3 thrashing of the Lions. Utilizing several big plays, the Ravens’ offense showed signs of explosiveness that we have not seen for much of the year—pretty solid timing with the playoffs nearing on the horizon. Up next: Chicago Bears.
14. Miami Dolphins (7-6)— The Fish overcame three turnovers and edged the Jags thanks to a strong day by RB Ricky Williams (108 yds, two TDs). The playoff push is very real for the Dolphins as they head to Tennessee on Sunday to try to make it five wins out of their last six.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6) —The Jags were stymied offensively gaining only 217 total yards on offense despite winning the turnover battle three to zip against the Dolphins. The playoff picture will only get murkier with another loss and up next are the undefeated Colts.
16. New York Jets (7-6)— With QB Kellen Clemens filling in for an injured Mark Sanchez, the Jets piled up the rushing yardage (175 yards) in dominating the Bucs. Josh Freeman never had a chance as the Jets confused him all day with different looks and blitzes. Unfortunately, the Jets have convinced their fan base yet again that they have a shot at the playoffs…will they never learn?
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7)— The downward spiral of the Steelers’ 2009 season is nearly complete after losing their fifth straight game, the latest to the lowly Browns. One could blame injuries but that lame excuse doesn’t fly when Pittsburgh displayed a complete inability to protect the quarterback (eight sacks allowed) or stop the run (171 yards) against their longtime rivals. They host the Packers Sunday to try and save some pride as their playoff window officially closes.
18. Tennessee Titans (6-7)— The Titans dispatched of the Rams easily and RB Chris Johnson continues his assault on the NFL and opposing fantasy owners. Nearly 450 yards of offense and 47 points kept the momentum going for the Titans who will try to extend their slim playoff hopes another week against the Dolphins.
19. Atlanta Falcons (6-7)— Playing without Michael Turner and Matt Ryan yet again, the Falcons hung tough and were stopped by the Saints on a potential game-tying or go-ahead drive with just over a minute to go. The defense will need to come up with more stops if they have any chance to run the table against the Jets, Bills, and Bucs… not exactly murderers’ row.
20. Houston Texans (6-7)— The Texans snapped a four-game losing streak by pouring it on offensively, mainly through the air. WR Andre Johnson hauled in 11 receptions for 193 yards and two scores to lead the way in a blowout win over Seattle. They will continue to fight back to .500 this week against the basement-owning Rams.
21. San Francisco 49ers (6-7)— This is the type of team the 49ers hoped they would be this season. Tough, opportunistic defense (seven forced turnovers) with a strong running game headed up by Frank Gore (167 yards); they got it for one game at least. Now, they head to Philly to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive.
22. Carolina Panthers (5-8)— So, the Panthers shut down Randy Moss, force three turnovers by the Patriots, still lose by 10 points and they’re bragging ? What am I missing? Head coach John Fox’s seat is likely to get hotter after the Vikings come to town this weekend.
23. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)— Seattle simply looks like a beaten team after the 34-7 drubbing they took in Houston. An abysmal 1 of 14 in third-down conversions highlighted their offensive struggles that managed only seven points in three trips to the red zone. They get a break with the Bucs coming into town but at this point, the ‘Hawks won’t rest easy until this season is over.
24. Chicago Bears (5-8)— The Bears were swept by the Packers for the first time since 2003 and find themselves in a miserable offensive funk. I think it’s fair to say at this point that the Broncos knew they might have had a head case on their hands named Jay Cutler. Grow up, Jay… and quickly because you’re playing Baltimore on Sunday.
25. Buffalo Bills (5-8)— The Bills counted on the leg of K Rian Lindell in a 16-10 win over the Chiefs. Four INTs helped them seal the win on a day where the offense was conspicuously absent. Spoiler is the role of choice this Sunday when they host the Patriots.
26. Washington Redskins (4-9)— The ‘Skins scored 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2006 and LB Brian Orakpo terrorized the Raiders with four sacks and a forced fumble. With a new GM in Bruce Allen in town, this Monday night game against the Giants may sadly be Coach Jim Zorn’s last.
27. Oakland Raiders (4-9)— Committing 14 penalties for 118 yards is difficult for any team to overcome, let alone a 4-9 team with two quarterbacks who were running for their respective lives all afternoon against Washington. Charlie Frye will be starting QB No. 3 in the mix as they head to Denver.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (3-10)— Matt Cassel threw INTs on the final three drives in a game that KC was trailing by six—difficult to overcome. Well, at least they didn’t lock him up with a $60 million dollar contract…oh wait. Hosting Cleveland this weekend will assure them only of millions of people not watching their game.
29. Cleveland Browns (2-11)— The Browns climbed out of the cellar this week after an inspired defensive performance against the Steelers, allowing just over 200 yards of offense. Jack of all trades Josh Cribbs contributed big plays on offense and special teams in the win, their first over Pittsburgh since in 13 tries. This week the Browns try to do more damage to their chances of the potential number one overall pick by attempting to beat the Chiefs.
30. Detroit Lions (2-11)— Duante Culpepper started for the injured Matt Stafford and nothing went right on offense. But, I suppose that’s an improvement over the defense where everything went wrong. This season has gone about as bad as expected and they will continue to try to improve against Arizona this Sunday.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12)— Sometimes you’re reminded how bad an NFL team can get after you’re forced to watch their crappy game against Gang Green because you live in New York. As Forrest Gump eloquently said: “That’s all I have to say about that.”
32. St. Louis Rams (1-12)— If you knew that starting QB Keith Null went to West Texas A&M then you can only be a Rams fan…or one of his family members. Throwing five INTs in a 40-point loss is a rough start to one’s career but I can only say this…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…