NFL Power Rankings: Ranking the Teams by Clutch Factor, Where's Tim Tebow?
It's just about time for the playoff push in the NFL.
There are 32 teams in the league, and all dream of postseason glory.
Unfortunately, only 12 of them get to make a bid.
What comes into play the most when a team needs to stretch their arms for the goal line and break the plane into the playoffs?
Who is more clutch?
What team possesses the raw, undefined skill set required to win when it matters most?
Who can win the games that they have to, and not just the ones that they're supposed to?
Let's rank all 32 NFL teams' clutch factors in 2011.
32) Indianapolis Colts
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Is this any surprise to anyone reading this?
The Colts have been blown out this year.
But more importantly, when given the chance to win a clutch game, they've missed every shot.
This team barely lost to the Browns.
They barely lost to the Steelers.
They could have beaten the Buccaneers.
They gave up a huge lead to the Chiefs.
This list is long and ridiculous.
The Colts haven't won a single game, whether it was flat-out or in the clutch.
The Colts are now 32nd in every ranking that includes the word "Power."
And now they don't face a team with a losing record until Week 17. Yikes.
31) Green Bay Packers
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
How many people are wondering why the best team in the league is the 31st team in clutch factor?
It's simple, really.
This team has had no need to be clutch yet in 2011.
They win every game in the third quarter.
The reason they're 31st is because we have no idea how they would have to play if they were losing, and because the Colts are so bad.
Take this as a compliment, Green Bay. Nobody knows what it's like to face a clutch Green Bay Packers team in 2011, because nobody's been close to beating them. Enjoy it.
UPDATE: Green Bay earned a much higher spot after yesterday's nailbiter with New York. Too bad they couldn't do that before this article was written. Let's go ahead and officially move Green Bay up to at least 15th at this point. One game like that says a lot, but not enough to move them all the way to the top.
30) Minnesota Vikings
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
The Vikings refuse to win a close game in 2011.
At 2-9, the Vikings actually seem like the worst team in the league.
The only reason the team isn't last is because, when he's healthy, Adrian Peterson is a dangerous player.
Unfortunately, he's not good enough to save a team that barely has a grasp on its home turf. No, I'm not talking about home-field advantage—I'm talking about their stadium.
I'm not taking anything away from Percy Harvin or the potential future of Christian Ponder, but this team is difficult to watch.
Nobody outside of Minnesota expects this team to pull of a win against any team in this league, week after week.
29) Cleveland Browns
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
The Browns pick up the 29th spot because they couldn't beat the St. Louis Rams in a one-point game.
The two closest games they won this year were a one-point victory over the Miami Dolphins, who at that time could not win a game to save their life, and the Seattle Seahawks in an electrifying 6-3 air show.
"Air show" meaning, of course, a field-goal kicking competition in which neither team was impressive or displayed any manner of legitimacy in the NFL.
That is all.
28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Tampa Bay entered the 2011 season with some very high hopes.
This team began the year challenging the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title.
They should have continued their run, but as disappointing teams do, the Buccaneers started losing again.
QB Josh Freeman is struggling badly in 2011, and the Bucs are sliding right back down into the NFL basement.
They did manage a close game against the Green Bay Packers not long ago.
But without the finalization of a commanding win, they receive no clutch points.
My condolences to the shattered hopes of fans of Tampa Bay in 2011.
27) Jacksonville Jaguars
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
The bottom 10 of any NFL Power Rankings are hard to list.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were by far the hardest team to place.
The reason they get the pass over the last five teams?
They actually managed to beat the division-contending Tennessee Titans in the most absolutely unpredictable week of the year—Week 1.
Maurice Jones-Drew. That's why.
This team may not be a powerhouse—especially considering Blaine Gabbert is doing his best impression of worst quarterback ever—but they still have MJD running the ball, and because of that they have the ability to change any game they play.
Expect this team to show just how clutch they can be this week against the plummeting San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.
26) Washington Redskins
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
The Redskins were clutch.
Then head coach Mike Shanahan benched Rex Grossman, and this team lost every bit of clutch factor that they possessed.
John Beck, under the ill-guided direction of Shanahan, destroyed this team's chances of a run in 2011.
Grossman now states this team has "a 3-5 percent chance of a run" this year.
Nice work, Mike.
25) St. Louis Rams
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Although St. Louis fails to win big games, they still have one heck of an X-factor.
Steven Jackson keeps the Rams relevant in a league that always finds a way to beat his team.
As a matter of fact, considering Sam Bradford seems destined to never find a consistent system with the Rams, Jackson may end up as the only saving grace for this team for the next 3-4 years—if he manages to play for that long.
There's not much else hope for Bradford and his Rams in the near future, and this team remains a long shot to win those close, important games.
24) Carolina Panthers
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Honestly, the Panthers should probably be lower in this list.
They've managed to give up some big leads in 2011.
But just like the Rams, they possess an X-factor that makes them seriously dangerous.
You might have heard of the guy.
Cam Newton? Yeah, that guy.
Aside from Steve Smith, Newton might be the only guy doing his job for the Panthers in 2011.
With some help from his defense, Newton could make the Panthers one heck of a clutch team.
The ability to win close games when it matters the most is something the Panthers need desperately—and it's also something they do not currently have.
23) Arizona Cardinals
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
There seems to be a trend forming here.
The Cardinals are another team that should have done a lot better in 2011.
This team still has an ability to win games when it matters the most, because Larry Fitzgerald has the ability to win games when it matters.
Whether it's Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, Fitzgerald comes through in the fourth like he's taking lessons from Tim Tebow (foreshadowing, anyone?).
22) Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Laham/Getty Images
The Philadelphia Eagles rank below the half-mark in about every category this year.
Except, of course, for expectations.
This Eagles team was supposed to be the "Dream Team."
Then again, the "Dream Team" stamp was added by the quarterback that just managed to throw four interceptions the other night in a huge loss to the Seattle Seahawks as the Eagles lost their potential for a playoff bid.
That's what makes this team so bad.
They can't win when they absolutely have to.
Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson have the potential to be the most clutch players in the NFL.
Sure, all Jackson can really do is run a go-route really fast and jump under the ball, but he still does it faster than anyone else in the league.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Vick is hurt, and Jackson has been watching too much vintage Randy Moss lowlights.
The Eagles are done. Don't expect them to win close games for the rest of the year—or in 2012, unless LeSean McCoy carries the ball on every play for the next calendar year.
21) San Diego Chargers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Where, oh where, did the clutch Chargers go?
If I had written this article in any of the last four years, this Chargers team would be about 10-15 spots higher.
In 2011, the tables have turned, and they're spinning so fast that quarterback Philip Rivers is practically losing his cookies all over the field.
The last thing that a team needs to be a clutch unit is turnovers, and that's exactly what Rivers has contributed.
The days of the Chargers running the table in the last six to eight games are over—at least for now—and so are the days of Norv Turner as their head coach.
Happy trails, Turner.
Maybe Rivers can find a way back into statistical efficiency once you're gone—or maybe follow your lead and find a new team.
20) Seattle Seahawks
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The Seahawks have earned a No. 20 spot for their terrific destruction of the "Dream Team" on Thursday Night Football.
Two teams were faced with an opportunity to begin an unlikely run toward a playoff bid in 2011.
One left with its tail between its legs. The other stayed home, triumphant and victorious.
The Seahawks left on top and remain alive in the playoff hunt mathematically.
The sign of a clutch team is one that wins when it needs to, and that's exactly what the Seahawks are doing right now.
Now, on a long week, this team has the potential—and the hot streak of Marshawn Lynch—to make an unlikely and ridiculously clutch run toward the postseason.
19) Miami Dolphins
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
That's right—the Miami Dolphins are a team that you don't want your team to play in the last few weeks of the season.
After losing their first seven, the Dolphins suddenly discovered that it's much more fun to win and took three straight before losing a close game to the Cowboys.
What makes this team clutch is the fact that at this point in the season they have nothing to lose.
Miami is the kind of team that could spoil anyone's playoff hopes.
Quarterback Matt Moore is playing like a fantasy stud, and Reggie Bush is playing like he's still a Trojan.
They're winning games that they shouldn't, and they're winning them at the wire.
The Cowboys are the reason the Dolphins aren't higher on this list.
18) Kansas City Chiefs
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Chiefs are just like the Dolphins.
They started the year in a dismal state, and they'll probably finish that way.
The difference is that Kansas City has pulled off some serious wins when it mattered most.
The Chiefs managed to pull within one game of their division lead by winning four straight games—one against the division-leading Oakland Raiders.
Now, with Kyle Orton at the helm, this team has the ability to be a serious playoff spoiler in December.
Technically, they remain in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff picture, and it's because they won games in the middle of the season when they really needed to.
This team did lose some serious points when it failed to capitalize against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 12.
Dwayne Bowe had the chance to put this team way higher on the list. Better luck next time, Mr. Under-Achiever.
17) Tennessee Titans
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
The Titans entered the year with a new quarterback and a rusty running back.
They began the season with a loss to division rival Jacksonville in one of the most boring games of 2011.
But right after, they took on what might be the best team in the AFC—the Baltimore Ravens—and took away a win.
The very next week, they beat the Broncos with a tremendous goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
Now, with a season on the line, the Titans and Chris Johnson are finally playing consistent football and winning when they really need to.
In Week 12, the Titans took away their biggest win of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—a game in which both teams' seasons were hanging in the balance.
The Titans remain alive for the Wild Card, and with Houston reeling from the loss of their quarterback, the Titans still have the chance to take the AFC South title.
16) Dallas Cowboys
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
The Cowboys have won in the clutch, but they've also lost big in the clutch—on more than one occasion.
But when they needed to keep their position at the top of the NFC East, the Cowboys managed to barely knock off a very scrappy Miami Dolphins team as the clock rolled to triple zeros.
Their ability to beat a team that could upset plenty of playoff hopes in 2011 is what gets the Dallas Cowboys into the top half of these rankings.
15) Chicago Bears
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
There's not a lot of close games being recorded for the Chicago Bears in 2011.
But they happen to employ one of the most electrifying and effective players in NFL history.
Matt Forte's not bad, either.
Devon Hester has the ability to completely turn a game around in about nine-and-a-half seconds if a kicker or punter is dumb enough to kick the ball to him.
The Bears possess one heck of a clutch factor in Hester, and the workhorse to win games in four quarters in Forte.
All they need is for teams not to follow the lead of Shane Lechler and kick it right over Hester's head.
Chicago will need every bit of talent that Hester has to offer if they plan on staying a clutch team and working into the playoffs with Caleb Hanie at the helm.
If this team manages to win with Hanie down the stretch, they'll be moving much further up this list.
14) Atlanta Falcons
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
After basically drowning to start the season, the Falcons are managing to win games late in the year.
They're 7-5 and very much in the race for the NFC South title, or at the very least a Wild Card spot.
And if it means anything, they have Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner and Julio Jones.
With weapons like that, it's hard to dismiss Atlanta's ability to take away games when they absolutely need to.
Clutch can also be evaluated by a team's ability to move themselves further up the playoff ladder and therefore a bit less likely to have face the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the postseason.
13) New England Patriots
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The New England Patriots have the worst defense in the league.
But they also have Tom Brady.
And Brady has shown on multiple occasions this year that if he has to win in the fourth quarter, he can get the job done.
Even after playing like a junior varsity team for three quarters against the Cowboys, Brady and his Patriots managed to finally play like professionals on the final drive and take away a win against one of the only tough teams remaining on their schedule.
That clutch play will have to remain in effect if they plan on continuing to win with a terrible defense.
12) Pittsburgh Steelers
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Pittsburgh makes their way this high up the rankings strictly because it's hard to ever count out Ben Roethlisberger.
What keeps the Steelers out of the top 10 are their losses to the Baltimore Ravens and the mystery that was their game against Kansas City.
If it weren't for coming back and taking out Cincinnati on the road in Week 10 and squeaking past the Patriots in Week 8, this team would probably be a lot further down this ladder.
11) Buffalo Bills
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
The Buffalo Bills made a living in early 2011 by playing very clutch football and completing outrageous comebacks.
The Oakland Raiders had an enormously commanding lead against the Bills before Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the team came roaring back to win on the final drive of the fourth quarter.
Just like the Steelers, something was holding the Bills out of the top 10 of this list.
The New York Jets are the culprit this time.
Both of those AFC East teams needed clutch play in Week 12, and the Jets are the ones that came through.
And it's not that the Bills didn't have their opportunities. They had the chance to steal that game right from under the Jets, and they didn't get it done.
Now, their playoff hopes are dwindling because of it.
10) New York Jets
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Jets begin the top 10 most clutch teams, and before last week they wouldn't have been even close.
The Jets and quarterback Mark Sanchez have been typical of losing big games—and small games, and the ones in the middle.
Last week, however, with the slightest glimmer of their playoff hopes fading away, the Jets managed to knock off their AFC East rival Buffalo Bills and keep their dreams alive—at least for now.
The Jets do have the ability to win games when they need to, just as they did against the Cowboys to start the season.
They'll be moving up this list quickly if they manage to keep themselves in the run for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC.
9) New Orleans Saints
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Drew Brees. Drew Brees. Drew Brees.
Have I mentioned Drew Brees yet?
How about Darren Sproles?
Can this team miss a third-down conversion?
I guess they can, but they don't miss many.
If the Saints ever look like they might be losing a game, all they need is Drew Brees to throw another five touchdowns, and maybe run for one or two more, and they're right back in the picture.
I would love for that to be a joke, but that guy just throws touchdowns. All the time.
8) Cincinnati Bengals
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
The Bengals are winning by the graces of a rookie's arm and a rookie's hands.
Did anybody expect the Bengals to be threatening to add a third AFC North team to the playoff picture?
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are the future of this franchise, and it becomes more evident as each and every week passes.
This team is clutch.
This team can win, and they do it in the most unpredictable fashion.
7) San Francisco 49ers
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Just like the Bengals, this 49ers team came out of nowhere.
Apparently in 2011, the 49ers decided to finally put this team together in winning fashion.
The pieces have been there all along—it just took the right guy to put it together.
This Harbaugh may have lost the Harbaugh bowl, but Jim's still impressing everyone in the league with this 49ers team.
They did lose the game they really needed to pull off in the clutch, and that's exactly why another team made it a bit higher up the ladder than them.
6) New York Giants
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
They have the ability to beat the unbeatens, and Eli has the ability to take any game into his hands.
It wasn't enough to beat the Saints in the last week, but it is enough to keep them in the hunt for the NFC East.
I just trust this Manning-lead offense a lot more than I trust any offense run by Tony Romo to win games when it matters.
They face off two times against the Cowboys still this season, and this clutch team will move themselves into the division lead by the end of the year.
5) Houston Texans
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
This team will prove over the last five weeks why they deserve the No. 5 spot on the highest clutch factor rankings.
Without their best receiver—who just so happens to be the best receiver in the league—they still managed to keep winning games.
Now, without their leader at quarterback, they will continue to win games.
With C.J. Yates.
Yeah, that's clutch.
4) Baltimore Ravens
Larry French/Getty Images
The Harbaugh Bowl is what makes this team the No. 4 on our list.
The Baltimore Ravens beat the best team in the NFC—if we don't count the Packers, of course.
They also beat the other great team in their division, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And they did it twice.
Big division wins.
Big cross-conference wins against very powerful teams.
Super Bowl, anyone?
The Ravens are putting their names in the hat for all three.
3) Detroit Lions
Leon Halip/Getty Images
This Detroit Lions team earns this spot by creating an early-season trend of unbelievable fourth-quarter comebacks.
Every week we would find the Lions down big to start the second half.
But for some reason, there was never a big worry.
We all knew Matt Stafford was going to start throwing bombs to Calvin Johnson, and the Lions' point total was going to skyrocket like it did every other week.
The Lions still managed to find a way to lose some games, but the games they've won have been through the smallest of margins.
2) Oakland Raiders
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Discerning between the top two clutch teams was a bit tough.
The Oakland Raiders have earned the second-highest spot on this list not only due to their ability to win clutch games, but due to the abilities and quick actions of their front office.
When the Raiders lost Jason Campbell for the year, there was no hesitation on the Raiders' side to go out and find a new leader for the team.
Enter Carson Palmer.
At first it was ugly. Palmer didn't know the system and wound up throwing seven interceptions to get his career with Oakland rolling. But he's caught on.
What puts Oakland at second and not in first place was Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
It seems their name is coming up a bit in this discussion.
1) Denver Broncos
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Oakland needed to keep winning to keep this red-hot team off of their heels.
They couldn't do it.
The Denver Broncos needed only to find a way to beat a 2-9 team in Minnesota.
And in classic 2011 Broncos fashion, they found themselves winning another game in the final seconds this Sunday, rightfully keeping their spot as the No. 1 clutch factor in the NFL.
The Broncos' clutch factor has a name. It's Tim Tebow.
With the help of this tremendous Denver defense—anchored by rookie Von Miller—the Broncos have pulled off the most unlikely of wins.
Coming back in the final 2:44 against Miami, down 15 points, scoring two touchdowns and successfully converting a two-point conversion to get the game into overtime and win with a field goal is enough to make this team No. 1.
But that's not the only comeback Tebow and the Broncos are responsible for this year.
Tebow now owns five fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives in his first 10 starts as an NFL player.
And now this five-game win streak has resulted in them moving all the way from dead last in the AFC West with a record of 1-4 to tied for first with Oakland at 7-5.
If that's not clutch, I don't know what is.