The NFL is nearing its playoff push, and it should be a December to remember (see what I did there?). With no clear-cut Super Bowl favorite, the last few months of the NFL season figure to be unpredictable.
The key matchup of Week 13 pits numbers one and two in this week’s power rankings, in a battle for the top spot. Is Brady’s flow enough to overcome Rex Ryan’s defense? We’ll find out on Monday Night.
1. New York Jets (9-2) – Mark Sanchez had a minor hiccup on Thanksgiving. He did not look nearly as impressive as he has. I am going to chalk that up to him looking ahead to the game against the Patriots and the fact that he was coming off of a short week. We’ll see what he and the Jets are made of this Monday Night.
2. New England Patriots (9-2) – The Lions hung with the Patriots for a while on Turkey Day but, like the Jets, Brady and the Patriots were gearing up for the Monday Night game. Despite looking ahead to the Jets, the Patriots pummeled the Lions. Never count out Brady and his flow, but the defensive concerns keep them out of the number one spot. Of course, they can claim that spot with a win on Monday Night.
3. Atlanta Falcons (9-2) – The Falcons are nearly impossible to beat at home, and could escape with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Matt Ryan is living up to his “Matty Ice” nickname, and I think his team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) – I am not ready to write off the Eagles just yet. They had a lot of opportunities to score against the Bears but just failed to capitalize. Michael Vick was the victim of a handful of dropped passes, including a potential touchdown that Desean Jackson let slip through his hands. Vick also missed Brent Celek for a touchdown. I have to think the Eagles will clean up these mistakes come January.
5. Green Bay Packers (7-4) – Aaron Rodgers has carried this team to seven wins. However, they sit a game back in the NFC North. Rodgers proved he could get it done at crunch time, but the question still remains; can the defense do the same?
6. San Diego Chargers (6-5) – Under Norv Turner the Chargers have never lost in December. Phillip Rivers is the MVP of the league right now, and the Chargers are well on their way to passing the Chiefs in the AFC West.
7. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) – The Ravens, once the sexy pick in the AFC, have dropped off a bit with some uninspiring victories. Watch out for this team to get hot in the final month. Do not let them fly under the radar when the playoffs roll around.
8. New Orleans Saints (8-3) – The Saints, like the Ravens, seem to be flying under the radar a bit. Drew Brees looks every bit the quarterback that led the Saints to the Super Bowl last season.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) – What a close call for the Steelers. Both lines are in rough shape, which is not an ideal formula for playoff success.
10. New York Giants (7-4) – Any Bears fan who has a gripe with the Giants being ahead of them, I point you to the October third, 10 sack embarrassment.
11. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) – These are not the Colts we are accustomed to seeing. Peyton Manning is not on top of his game (more on this in a later entry), the offensive and defensive lines are a mess, and the running game cannot get anything going. The AFC South will not get a wild card team this season, so Manning and the Colts could be in a dog fight for a playoff spot in a tight division title race.
12. Chicago Bears (8-3) – The Bears' defense is the league’s best, but how can you trust the pass protection scheme of Mike Martz? When Cutler has time to throw, he can be lethal. That being said, against a formidable pass rush, Chicago does not have the ability to protect him.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) – Tampa Bay showed me a lot on Sunday, playing the Ravens tough. This team has made great strides, and should be primed for a playoff run within the next few years.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – Dwayne Bowe and the Chiefs took the top off of that Seattle defense, but did nothing to warrant a significant jump in the rankings. They are a fun story, but it is only a matter of time before San Diego passes them.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5) – The Jaguars put forth a surprising effort against one of the top dogs in the NFC, in the New York Football Giants. For the first time all year the Jaguars were not able to pull out the victory at crunch time. They had a few calls go against them, namely the pass interference on Osgood that set up the winning drive, and just did not match up well with the Giants. The season all comes down to the game at Indianapolis on December 19th.
16. Houston Texans (5-6) – Do not make the mistake of believing in this team. It needs to win the division to make the playoffs, and they are not in a position to do so.
17. St. Louis Rams (5-6) – Sam Bradford has impressed me this season. He has the intangibles and ability to take this team places. The Rams are my pick to have the uninspiring title of NFC West Champions.
18. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn? Nice one Josh McDaniels…
19. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Is Chad Henne consistent enough to be the future?
20. Washington Redskins (5-6) – Remember when Mike Shanahan could plug anyone in at running back? Ryan Torrain and Clinton Portis do.
21. San Francisco 49ers (4-7) – The 49ers are still in the hunt. Although, I am not sure being in the hunt in the NFC West is much to write home about.
22. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – I never like to count Jeff Fisher out, but Rusty Smith is just awful.
23. Seattle Seahawks (5-6) – A weak schedule has masked the fact that this team is in reconstruction.
24. Oakland Raiders (5-6) – The Raiders just are not ready to play with the big boys.
25. Dallas Cowboys (3-8) – The Cowboys made their typical costly mistakes, but put up a hell of a fight against the Saints.
26. Minnesota Vikings (4-7) – The Vikings finally have a coach they are willing to play for.
27. Buffalo Bills (2-9) – The Bills have to find out if Fitzpatrick is worthy of the franchise quarterback role.
28. Detroit Lions (2-9) – Say what you want about the Lions, but brighter days are ahead.
29. Arizona Cardinals (3-8) – Some serious rebuilding needs to take place.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-9) – The Bengals are a disaster.
31. Denver Broncos (3-8) – The good news: It looks like Josh McDaniels could get fired this offseason. The bad news: The damage he has done will not be a quick fix.
32. Carolina Panthers (1-10) – Jimmy Clausen showed some signs of life. I believe he gives the Panthers something to build around.