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NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Are the Atlanta Falcons Still No. 1?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2010

NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Are The Atlanta Falcons Still No. 1?

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Standing and stumbling, stopping and starting.  It's fair to say the next two weeks in the NFL are going to be mighty interesting.

    Following a rather tumultuous and eventful Week 15, the NFL now switches into dire strait mode as time quickly progresses, with a boatload of teams still second guessing their playoff chances in the next fortnight.

    As far as questions go though, most fans aren't overly concerned with the bottom dwellers right now. 

    The New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons debate continues to prove hostile around the water cooler, and with several other teams asserting themselves into the Super Bowl conversation, power rankings are extremely hard during this turbulent time.

    Nonetheless, here's a look at Week 16's Power Rankings as Bill Belichick and Mike Smith continue to battle it out.

32. Arizona Cardinals

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Record: (4-10)


    Previous Game: Lost 19-12 at Carolina Panthers.

     

    Arizona slipping up to the league's worst overall team in Week 15 earns them the bottom spot this week.  Quarterback John Skelton completed only 17 of his 33 passes, and it's clear that the Cardinals have some serious passing issues to attend to.

     

    Next Game: vs. Dallas Cowboys.

31. Carolina Panthers

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    Record: (2-12)

     

    Previous Game: Won 19-12 vs. Arizona Cardinals.

     

    The same team that the Cardinals fell to on Sunday endured a pleasing win, as the Panthers finally managed to crack the two game victory mark on the season.  Problems still remain on John Fox's team, such as Carolina's 32nd ranked point scoring offense, but at the end of the day, at least quarterback Jimmy Clausen continues to develop as the weeks fly by.

     

    Next Game: at Pittsburgh Steelers.

30. Denver Broncos

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    Record: (3-11)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 39-23 at Oakland Raiders.

     

    The Tim Tebow show got underway in Week 15, but even the former Gator's 138 yard and two touchdown effort wasn't enough to push the Broncos past their AFC West division rivals, the Oakland Raiders.  2011 is now the goal for head coach Eric Studesville, but unfortunately for Bronco fans, there are two more weeks remaining this year.

     

    Next Game: vs. Houston Texans.

29. Houston Texans

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    Record: (5-9)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 31-17 at Tennessee Titans.

     

    Taking a huge fall from grace this season, the Houston Texans continue to plummet in the power rankings, as Gary Kubiak's controversial team now occupies the 29th spot heading into Week 16.  Last week the Texans showed glimpses of brilliance, but this time the Texans couldn't avoid a disappointing victory away at LP Field.  Kerry Collins destroyed the Texans defense along with Chris Johnson, so expect Houston to take the Draft extremely seriously come April.

     

    Next Game: at Denver Broncos.

28. Cleveland Browns

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    Record: (5-9)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 19-17 at Cincinnati Bengals.

     

    The "Battle of Ohio" struggled to draw fans into Paul Brown Stadium this past weekend, a surprising factor considering the Browns liked their chances with Colt McCoy under center.  Unfortunately though Cleveland slipped up against their AFC North rivals, and as great a performance as McCoy himself had, Bengals running back Cedric Benson destroyed the Browns defense for 150 yards and one touchdown on the day.

     

    Next Game: vs. Baltimore Ravens.

27. Minnesota Vikings

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    Record: (5-9)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 40-14 vs. Chicago Bears.

     

    The final day of Brett Favre's career seems to have played out following the Vikings embarrassing loss on Monday Night Football. More to the point, Minnesota is now sent back to the drawing board following a bewildering 2010 season. 

    Devin Hester's brilliance destroyed the Vikings special teams when he scored his 14th kick return touchdown in his career.  To make matters worse, Brett Favre suffered a head injury, and is unlikely to go out gracefully after 20 years of pure dedication.

     

    Next Game: at Philadelphia Eagles.

26. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Record: (3-11)

     

    Previous Game: Won 19-17 vs. Cleveland Browns.

     

    Defeating the Browns may be nothing to cheer about at all this regular season, but for Cincinnati and Marvin Lewis, the Bengals will take what they can get after such a tormenting and drawn out year. 

    Before Bengal fans could get too excited following their win however, the loss of Terrell Owens for the remainder of the season put a damper on the occasion.  Yes, there is nothing left to play for, but next year is a totally different ball game.

     

    Next Game: vs. San Diego Chargers.

25. Washington Redskins

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    Record: (5-9)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 33-30 at Dallas Cowboys.

     

    Creating a stir all week long, head coach Mike Shanahan decided to bench Donovan McNabb ahead of his teams clash with the Dallas Cowboys, instead playing questionably talented quarterback Rex Grossman all game long.  For the Redskins hard fought effort against a revitalized Cowboys outfit, credit is due.  Still, some serious issues lay within this organization that must be ironed out ever so quickly.

     

    Next Game: at Jacksonville Jaguars.

24. Seattle Seahawks

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    Record: (6-8)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 34-18 vs. Atlanta Falcons. 

     

    An uphill task faced the Seahawks when they took on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, but with the playoffs still within reach, a much better performance would have been ideal for a possible postseason team.  Matt Hasselbeck was benched midway through this game, but Pete Carroll still remains behind No.8.  To think that a below .500 team may make the playoffs is uncanny, but the Seahawks will take it. 

     

    Next Game: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

23. Miami Dolphins

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    Record: (7-7)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 17-14 vs. Buffalo Bills.

     

    The pesky Buffalo Bills got the better of the Dolphins this past Sunday, dishing Miami a stunning three point blow despite Tony Sparano's last minute fight back in the fourth quarter.  Luckily, the Dolphins remain even par at .500, and have a chance to at least make their season respectable.  If next season is to be any better though, Miami must fix their home woes which have plagued them all year long.

     

    Next Game: vs. Detroit Lions

22. Buffalo Bills

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    Record: (4-10)

     

    Previous Game: Won 17-14 at Miami Dolphins.

     

    For all of the Bills grit and determination, a big time payoff came in Week 15 when Buffalo knocked off the Miami Dolphins in front of their hometown crowd. 

    Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick remained in perfect form throwing for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day, and seeing as though the Bills continue to show winning determination despite their record, Buffalo remains persistent while creeping up the power rankings week by week.

     

    Next Game: vs. New England Patriots.

21. Detroit Lions

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    Record: (4-10)

     

    Previous Game: Won 23-20 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

     

    A monumental week in the Lions history plagued Week 15, when Jim Schwartz's crew managed to upset the red hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a fierce away game.  Once again the Lions offense showed guts, as later reports showed that quarterback Drew Stanton played with a separated shoulder.  A tough loss for Tampa Bay, but a big win for the Lions in such a promising year.

     

    Next Game: at Miami Dolphins.

20. Dallas Cowboys

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    Record: (5-9)

     

    Previous Game: Won 33-30 vs. Washington Redskins.

     

    It was tight and it was well contested, but the Dallas Cowboys pulled out their fifth win of the season defeating the Washington Redskins 33-30.  The Eagles and Giants continue to battle atop the NFC East, but the Cowboys look to yet again be a threat this time next year.

     

    Next Game: at Arizona Cardinals.

19. Tennessee Titans

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    Record: (6-8)

     

    Previous Game: Won 31-17 vs. Houston Texans.

     

    Amongst all of the chaos, the Tennessee Titans could still slip into the playoffs this season if the Jaguars and Colts fall apart atop the AFC South.  While that scenario is unlikely to happen, Kerry Collins' big outing against the Houston Texans last Sunday helped Jeff Fisher's team immensely both confidence wise and chemistry wise when the chips were down.

     

    Next Game: at Kansas City Chiefs.

18. San Francisco 49ers

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    Record: (5-9)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 34-7 at San Diego Chargers.

     

    Normally a 34-7 blowout would warrant a low ranking for the 49ers.  Considering Mike Singletary's team is still in the playoff hunt though, San Francisco doesn't need to worry too much about their Thursday night loss due to the fact that they are still in contention in the NFC West.  St. Louis now awaits.

     

    Next Game: at St. Louis Rams.

17. St. Louis Rams

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    Record: (6-8)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 27-13 vs. Kansas City Chiefs.

     

    Slamming Sam Bradford couldn't get the job done at home against Kansas City this past week, but fortunately for the Rams they do sit above the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West with a 6-8 record.  Bradford threw for an unusual 181 yards and 2 touchdowns last week, so it will be interesting to see if things turn around in Week 16.

     

    Next Game: vs. San Francisco 49ers.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Record: (8-6)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 34-24 at Indianapolis Colts.

     

    Jacksonville experienced a week to forget this past Sunday, losing the division lead to the Indianapolis Colts in a rather tight affair despite what the scoreboard may state.  The photo to the left says it all, as frustration has set in for one of the leagues surprising teams.  The division crown or Wild Card spot is still a huge chance, so expect a different Jaguars team when they face Washington this week.

     

    Next Game: vs. Washington Redskins.

15. Oakland Raiders

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    Record: (7-7)

     

    Previous Game: Won 39-23 vs. Denver Broncos.

     

    The Raiders continue to hang in by the skin of their teeth, as the next fortnight will prove both costly yet important for Oakland in regards to the teams possible playoff campaign.  A big win over the Broncos was the Raiders fate last week, and it couldn't have come at a better time.  7-7 with two weeks to go, it isn't over for The Black Hole just yet.

     

    Next Game: vs. Indianapolis Colts.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Record: (8-6)

     

    Previous Game:  Lost 23-20 vs. Detroit Lions.

     

    A critical loss was unfortunate for the Bucs last weekend, but even a slip up against the Detroit Lions can't spoil the party entirely for Raheem Morris' team.  All in all, it was only a three point game, and even though the NFC South is now becoming a difficult task with two weeks to go, Tampa Bay must make the most of the Seattle Seahawks this weekend.

     

    Next Game: vs. Seattle Seahawks.

13. Green Bay Packers

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    Record: (8-6)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 31-27 at New England Patriots.

     

    Take nothing away from the Packers loss. Quarterback Matt Flynn looked superb in his first start under center filling in for the injured Aaron Rodgers.  Unluckily however, it wasn't to be for Mike McCarthy, and now Green Bay must defeat the New York Giants this week if they are to secure a Wild Card berth.

     

    Next Game: vs. New York Giants.

12. New Orleans Saints

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    Record: (10-4)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 30-24 at Baltimore Ravens.

     

    Just like the Packers, a Week 15 loss slowed down the Saints playoff hopes this past week, although Drew Brees and company still stand a legitimate shot at making the big dance.  No.9 threw for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns last week, but the Saints 20th ranked rush defense struggled against Ray Rice.  An improvement is needed on defense this weekend against their division rivals.

     

    Next Game: at Atlanta Falcons.

11. San Diego Chargers

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    Record: (8-6)

     

    Previous Game: Won 34-7 vs. San Francisco 49ers.

     

    God bless the San Diego Chargers, because they continue to fight with two seriously critical weeks remaining in the regular season.  Just like many other franchises this year, the 49ers felt the pinch of Norv Turner's brilliance, and now the Chargers must heavily rely on their high ranked offense/defense for the next fortnight.

     

    Next Game: at Cincinnati Bengals.

10. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Record: (9-5)

     

    Previous Game: Won 27-13 at St. Louis Rams.

     

    The Chiefs can count their blessings after seeing Matt Cassel suit up last week. Seeing as though Kansas City still controls its own fate in the AFC West, Todd Haley does have a few nervous moments ahead of him in Week 16.  If Kansas City can continue to dominate and take advantage of both Tennessee and Oakland at home, then a Wild Card spot should be theirs to keep come January.

     

    Next Game: vs. Tennessee Titans.

9. New York Giants

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    Record: (9-5)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 38-31 vs. Philadelphia Eagles.

     

    Some folks may question why the Giants are still in the top ten, but after New York dominated the Philadelphia Eagles for three straight quarters, even a loss can't send Big Blue spiraling rapidly.  If it wasn't for some DeSean Jackson brilliance last week the Giants would have pinched a victory, instead of being faced with a "one down" situation in the NFC East.  Time still remains, but the Giants should be as good as gold if they can take care of their fourth quarter play.

     

    Next Game: at Green Bay Packers.

8. Indianapolis Colts

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    Record: (8-6)

     

    Previous Game: Won 34-24 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars.

     

    Reclaiming the AFC South and moving one step closer to the playoffs, the Indianapolis Colts now find themselves back in the groove after rediscovering their mojo in Week 15.  Peyton Manning is always hot in the month of December, so expect some hotly contested football down south in the remaining weeks.

     

    Next Game: at Oakland Raiders.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Record: (10-4)

     

    Previous Game: Lost 22-17 vs. New York Jets.

     

    Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost last week, but what people seem to be forgetting is the fact that the Steelers secured a playoff spot in 2010, and are two steps closer to winning the AFC North division yet again this season.

    A loss against the Jets last week exposed Pittsburgh's immediate problems, such as the offensive line and how much the loss of Troy Polamalu affects the defense.  No.43 is expected back sometime this month, hopefully in time for the Steelers Thursday night meeting with the Carolina Panthers.

     

    Next Game: vs. Carolina Panthers.

6. New York Jets

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    Record: (10-4)

     

    Previous Game: Won 22-17 at Pittsburgh Steelers.

     

    New York experienced the joys of knocking off one of the top AFC teams away in Pittsburgh, as the Jets defense managed to contain the Steelers defense quite nicely in a tough road game.  The Jets may not win the AFC East this year, but a Wild Card spot will be much appreciated by the entire city of New York should the Jets make it their destiny.

     

    Next Game: at Chicago Bears.

5. Chicago Bears

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    Record: (10-4)

     

    Previous Game: Won 40-14 at Minnesota Vikings. 

     

    Two games up, two games to go -- that's the scenario for the Chicago Bears right now.  Lovie Smith's team took the Minnesota Vikings to school on Monday Night Football. If it wasn't Devin Hester's kick return brilliance, it was Jay Cutler or Julius Peppers making big plays.  A Super Bowl sleeper?  You can't write off The Windy City this season.

     

    Next Game: vs. New York Jets.

4. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Record: (10-4)

     

    Previous Game: Won 38-31 at New York Giants.

     

    Call it luck or call it skill, the Philadelphia Eagles waltzed into the Meadowlands on Sunday and more or less stole a victory from the New York Giants.  Aside from the obvious DeSean Jackson brilliance though, Michael Vick was phenomenal in the fourth quarter leading the Eagles to three fight back touchdowns.  David Akers onside kick helped immensely, and we now have one of the few front-runners for the Super Bowl in 2010.

     

    Next Game: vs. Minnesota Vikings.

3. Baltimore Ravens

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    Record: (10-4)

     

    Previous Game: Won 30-24 vs. New Orleans Saints.

     

    The Pittsburgh Steelers were looking likely to win the division prior to this past Sunday.  Now that the Ravens have pulled off a huge win over the New Orleans Saints however, confidence is flowing through the veins of Joe Flacco as the next two weeks progress.  Two easy games await against below .500 opponents, so who knows where this freight train will stop come January.

     

    Next Game: at Cleveland Browns.

2. New England Patriots

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    Record: (12-2)

     

    Previous Game: Won 31-27 vs. Green Bay Packers.

     

    The Patriots have clinched a playoff spot, that much we know.  What New England hasn't clinched though is the top spot in the power rankings, as Tom Brady and the Patriot defense struggled immensely against Matt Flynn and a half strength Green Bay Packers side last weekend.

    It doesn't spell disaster for Bill Belichick's side, but Brady's 163 yards and 2 touchdowns put a minor dent in his MVP resume.  The playoffs are a shoo-in for New England at this stage, but perhaps the Patriots aren't the fully equipped team we thought they were a week ago.

     

    Next Game: at Buffalo Bills.

1. Atlanta Falcons

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    Record: (12-2)

     

    Previous Game: Won 34-18 vs. Seattle Seahawks.

     

    Flying under the radar and loving every minute of it, the Atlanta Falcons continue to pile on the wins this season, hoping for a spot in the Super Bowl come February next year.  As much as New England looks to be the full package, the Falcons are just as pretty.  Matt Ryan is having a phenomenal MVP like year, and even though Roddy White isn't in the discussion, he too is a standout amongst the talented.

    New Orleans awaits the Falcons in Week 16, and of course serious NFC South bragging rights are on the line.  More importantly however, the Falcons have home field advantage through the next two weeks, a huge luxury as Mike Smith's team cruises to a division crown.

     

    Next Game: vs. New Orleans Saints.

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