Week 14 was filled with surprises and injuries. For the first time in 298 regular season games, Brett Favre missed a game due to injury. His replacement in Green Bay suffered a concussion and the Giants suffered an injury to an important offensive weapon.
Elsewhere around the league, the Chiefs laid an egg in a division matchup with the Chargers and the Jets lost their second game in a row.
For the fourth consecutive week, at least half of the games were won by the road team, begging once again the question of, how important is home field during the playoffs?
With three weeks to go, there are still 23 teams in contention, meaning 14 games this week have playoff implications (Cleveland vs. Cincinnati and Atlanta vs. Seattle being the exceptions as the Falcons are already in and the other three teams are out). It should be a fun ride the last three weeks, so here are this week’s power rankings.
Teams’ previous ranking in ( ).
1. New England Patriots (1): New England left little doubt as to who is the best team in the NFL right now and did it with an offensive outburst in near-blizzard like conditions no less.
2. Atlanta Falcons (2): One more win and the Falcons earn a first round bye and possibly the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3): Troy Polamalu playing his best football of the season just in time for the playoffs.
4. Baltimore Ravens (4): The defense was shaky in the second half on Monday night, but prevailed for them in overtime.
5. New Orleans Saints (5): The Saints are getting hot at the right time. The defense is playing well and they are starting to look like a team that could repeat.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (7): After losing to the Cowboys three times last year, the Eagles finally got revenge, but barely.
7. New York Giants (8): Take the good with the bad; Hakeem Nicks is back, but Steve Smith is lost for the season. Huge games against the Eagles and Packers in the next two weeks.
8. Chicago Bears (6): Embarrassing loss for the Bears. Must beat the Vikings this week to assure themselves a tie breaker over Green Bay.
9. Green Bay Packers (9): The defense continues to dominate (allowed fewer points than anyone in the league), despite being decimated by injuries. Whether QB Aaron Rodgers plays this week may be irrelevant against the Patriots. Which means the Packers will need to win their final two games and get a little bit of help to reach the playoffs.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (13): They can pretty much wrap up the division with a win against the Colts this week. Let me say that again; they can dethrone the Colts string of division titles with a win this week.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12): Another win against a team below .500. This was more of a gift than a game well played.
12. New York Jets (10): They’ve been exposed and could be in serious trouble. They really have not played good football since their bye, despite winning four straight at one point.
13. Kansas City Chiefs (11): Is it too late to argue Matt Cassel as MVP? After last week’s 31-0 drubbing by the Chargers, it would be hard to argue any other player is more valuable to his team.
14. San Diego Chargers (15): Huge win last week, but must make a quick turnaround and face a talented, underachieving 49ers team on short rest.
15. Indianapolis Colts (16): Indy remained alive with a 2-point win over the Titans and face another must win game this week against the Jags.
16. Miami Dolphins (17): Not a pretty win against the Jets, but it kept their slim playoff hopes alive, at least for one more week.
17. Oakland Raiders (14): Great effort in week 14 but came up just short. They are still a team that is learning how to finish.
18. St. Louis Rams (18): A loss this week won’t be damaging. They finish with two division games. Win both, and they win the NFC Worst… errr West.
19. Dallas Cowboys (19): The ‘Boys are 3-2 since Jason Garrett took over. Both losses were 30-27 against likely playoff teams (Saints, Eagles).
20. Houston Texans (21): Second half comeback was thrilling, but overtime pick-6 killed their playoff chances.
21. Cleveland Browns (20): Loss to Bills was a step backward after six straight good games. With a few off season changes, this could be a sleeper team in 2011.
22. Minnesota Vikings (22): Have we seen Favre play his final game? Regardless, the Vikings need to address the quarterback position soon.
23. San Francisco 49ers (26): Once again they’ve given themselves a shot at the playoffs. A win on Thursday against the Chargers will make things very interesting.
24. Seattle Seahawks (23): Seattle controls its own destiny; win the final three and they win the division. Not an easy task with the Falcons coming to town this week.
25. Washington Redskins (24): Apparently fumbling the snap on an extra point will get you cut, but missing two chip shot field goals in a game lost by one point will not.
26. Tennessee Titans (25): Six straight losses just won’t cut it. Jeff Fisher might be on his way out.
27. Detroit Lions (28): The Lions snapped a 19 game NFC North losing streak against the Packers and did it with a third string quarterback at that.
28. Arizona Cardinals (31): Even at 4-9, they have not been eliminated from playoff contention yet. This week John Skelton faces off against Jimmy Clausen. Sounds like must-see TV to me.
29. Denver Broncos (27): Maybe Josh McDaniels wasn’t Denver’s problem.
30. Buffalo Bills (30): It could be a few years before the Bills are relevant again. C.J. Spiller has not electrified this offense in any way.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (29): Finally! Terrell Owens speaks up. It only took a 10-game losing streak for it to happen. How long until he throws Carson Palmer under the bus? Personally I’m hoping he takes a shot at Chad Ochocinco. How great would that twitter war be?
32. Carolina Panthers (32): Rough start to Clausen’s career. Perhaps a chance at his first win this week against the Cardinals.