After 16 weeks of football, it all comes down to one week for the Colts, Jags, Packers, Giants, Buccaneers, Rams and Seahawks.
That’s almost ¼ of the NFL that has playoff hopes in the final game of the season.
Everything except the final NFC wildcard appears to be set. The Colts and Rams will be heavy favorites to win, leaving the Packers, Giants and Bucs to fight it out for the final NFC wildcard.
If Green Bay wins, they are in. If the Giants win and Green Bay loses, the Giants are in. If both Green Bay and New York lose, and Tampa Bay wins, they are in.
Week 16 also brought us our fourth in-season firing as 49ers coach Mike Singletary was given the boot after his team was officially eliminated from playoff contention (yes, even after starting 1-6, it took 16 weeks to officially eliminate them).
There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut leader for the position next year, but Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be an early favorite.
Week 16 also decided (most) fantasy football championships. Hopefully your season didn’t end like mine did (losing by three points and having Sebastian Janikowski miss a field goal, having a Marques Colston touchdown nullified by penalty, and having Jon Kitna throw two interceptions; yes if any of those things had gone my way, I’d be a champion!)
But if it did, alas, we always have next year (provided there is no lockout).
So, with 16 weeks in the books, here are this week’s Power Rankings.
Teams’ previous ranking in ( ).
1. New England Patriots (1): The AFC playoffs go through New England once again. The Patriots are the favorites, but Cleveland and Green Bay exposed them.
2. Baltimore Ravens (3): Ed Reed has six picks in nine games and is a huge part of that Ravens defense.
3. Atlanta Falcons (2): The Falcons aren’t quite as invincible at home as we thought, but a win this week against Carolina will give them home field throughout the NFC playoffs.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (5): A win this week assures them of a first-round bye.
5. New Orleans Saints (6): The defending champs have proven they are ready to defend their title and should be considered a legitimate favorite.
6. Chicago Bears (7): Should Chicago be excited about the offensive outburst, or worried about the defensive effort in their game against the Jets?
7. Philadelphia Eagles (4): After the miracle in Week 15, Philly laid an egg and Michael Vick was thrown around like a rag doll. Another week like that and the Eagles may be forced to go with Kevin Kolb in the playoffs.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (10): Quite a few solid candidates for AFC Coach of the Year, but nobody deserves it more than Todd Haley.
9. Green Bay Packers (11): If the Packers somehow win the Super Bowl, they will have won six straight ‘playoff’ games.
10. New York Jets (9): They’re in the playoffs, but how they will fare is anybody’s guess.
11. New York Giants (8): After a disaster against the Eagles, they still controlled their own destiny. They promptly got embarrassed at Lambeau and now must win and get a little help to reach the playoffs.
12. Indianapolis Colts (12): Win and they're in. Lose, and they still might be in. Either way, these aren’t the Colts of the past, nobody fears them.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (13): A great run, but no David Garrard and no MJD in Week 17 all but guarantees the end of their season.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16): They’re holding on by a thread, but the fact that they are entering Week 17 with any playoff hopes is impressive; Raheem Morris deserves major consideration for NFC Coach of the Year.
15. Oakland Raiders (15): The quarterback position continues to be a problem; if they solve it they will be a playoff contender.
16. San Diego Chargers (14): For once, the terribly slow start to their season finally came back to bite them.
17. St. Louis Rams (19): If they can’t beat Charlie Whitehurst and the Seahawks this week, they probably don’t deserve a playoff spot anyway.
18. Dallas Cowboys (17): A disappointing season probably hit rock bottom, and on Christmas no less.
19. Miami Dolphins (18): What happened to the Wildcat offense this season?
20. Minnesota Vikings (22): Regardless of what happens in Week 17, Joe Webb deserves a shot at the starting job next season.
21. Houston Texans (20): The year 2010 started out so promising for the Texans, and ended in disappointment again. That defense needs to be almost completely rebuilt.
22. Cleveland Browns (21): They match up well against the Steelers; don’t be surprised if they keep Pittsburgh from grabbing the No. 2 playoff spot.
23. Detroit Lions (27): Three straight wins for the Lions; two straight on the road. Not to mention with a third-string quarterback. They are on the verge of playoff contention in the years to come.
24. Washington Redskins (26): Get excited, Redskins fans, it looks like Rex Grossman just might be your starting quarterback in 2011.
25. San Francisco 49ers (23): San Francisco was a great story last year and should have continued it this year and been a legitimate playoff team (yes, even from the NFC West). Hands down the most talented team within that division.
26. Tennessee Titans (24): Randy Moss has dropped off the radar since his trade to the Titans. Guess I was a little off when I said the trade easily made them the AFC South favorites.
27. Seattle Seahawks (25): It is disgusting that this team could host a playoff game if they win this week with a final record of 7-9. I don’t have a problem with them making the playoffs as division winners, but hosting a playoff game? Thankfully, they will likely be starting their backup quarterback and have very little hope of winning.
28. Arizona Cardinals (29): I don’t think John Skelton is the answer at quarterback, and something tells me Larry Fitzgerald agrees.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (30): Carson Palmer finally played a great game. I guess waiting until Week 16 is better than waiting until Week 17…
30. Denver Broncos (31): Nice comeback by the Broncos to give Tim Tebow his first NFL win.
31. Buffalo Bills (28): After playing good football with mixed results, they appear to have finally given up. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves another shot next season.
32. Carolina Panthers (32): Expect them to play extremely hard this week against the Falcons, but don’t expect a win.