NFL Power Rankings Week 14: Grades for Every Team

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterDecember 4, 2011

NFL Power Rankings Week 14: Grades for Every Team

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    A fun exercise is to look back at the opening lines given by Las Vegas on who would win the 2012 Super Bowl and then come back 13 weeks later to see how NFL teams are living up to those expectations. Why not now?

    This week's power rankings get a nice addition as we look at the Week 1 Vegas odds for a Super Bowl for each city and the current odds for all teams Vegas is willing to bet on. We'll then assign a grade based on how teams have lived up to early-season expectations.

32. Indianapolis Colts

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    Preseason Odds: 20/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: F

    Even without Peyton Manning to open the season, fans and experts alike expected the Indianapolis Colts to make the playoffs this season and even give the Super Bowl a run. In this case, the experts were way off.

    The Colts haven't won a game all season, and each week they find new ways to lose the game. The better bet right now would be on a winless season in Indianapolis.

31. St. Louis Rams

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    Preseason Odds: 45/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: F

    The St. Louis Rams were expected to come in hot after a 7-9 2010 season, riding the back of second-year quarterback Sam Bradford and an offense revamped by new coordinator Josh McDaniels. It hasn't happened, at all.

    The Rams are struggling to find production from Bradford, their offensive line is a wreck and the rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball has crippled the team's chances.

    The good news is a top draft pick will once again be headed their way after the season.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Preseason Odds: 100/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: D

    The playoffs would have been a reach for the Jacksonville Jaguars this season, but competing in a weakened division and showing improvement was expected. Instead the coach has been fired, the team sold and the rookie franchise quarterback looks questionable at best.

    The Jaguars are in trouble, and it shows each week. They'll try to snap back into action Monday night against the also troubled San Diego Chargers.

29. Minnesota Vikings

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    Preseason Odds: 40/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: F

    Hard to believe that way back in September folks thought the Minnesota Vikings had a shot at the playoffs, but the Vikings were ranked No. 17 overall by the boys and girls in Las Vegas. Instead of competing for a late-season playoff run, the Vikings' season is over, and plans for the 2012 offseason are beginning.

    Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder gives fans and coaches something to build around, but first they have to improve the play of the offensive line and the secondary so collapses like the Week 13 loss to the Denver Broncos can't happen again.

28. Cleveland Browns

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    Preseason Odds: 100/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: D+

    Some will be honest and tell you they had the Cleveland Browns penned as a potential playoff surprise in 2011. Vegas maybe didn't, but I had them damn close myself.

    If we're judging Cleveland on that basis, that it would have been close to a playoff berth, then it is way off this season.

    Cleveland's core players haven't played well consistently this season—both Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis have to worry about their futures in the Browns' locker room.

    The good news is the defense is playing very well, and with two first-round picks the Browns are in position to rebuild.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Preseason Odds: 35/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: F

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off 10 wins last season and were one win away from the playoffs. Looking at their young roster and the moves made this offseason, it seemed like Tampa was ready for at least a wild-card spot in 2011.

    No one could have predicted the demise of the Buccaneers this season or the all-around bad play of Josh Freeman and the Tampa offense. Key players on defense have been hurt, or not performed up to expectations, or both. 

    No matter the reason, the Buccaneers are now much closer to 10 losses than any hope of 10 wins.

26. Washington Redskins

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    Preseason Odds: 100/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: C

    The Washington Redskins have both exceeded and failed to meet expectations this season. To say this has been a stressful season would be an understatement for fans, players and coaches.

    Washington jumped out hot, fueling playoff hopes under Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan, but those hopes were quickly extinguished due to injuries and poor play from Rex Grossman and John Beck at quarterback.

    Now we're back to reality, and the Redskins are playing right about where we thought they would. This is a team that can compete on a week-to-week basis but is far from becoming a playoff contender.

25. San Diego Chargers

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    Preseason Odds: 11/1

    Current Odds: 50/1

    Grade: F-

    The expectations in San Diego are always for the playoffs, even if those expectations aren't merited. Many in the media had picked San Diego to make the Super Bowl this year. They were a bit off.

    Once again Norv Turner's players fail to play up to their potential. No surprise there, right?

    While many were correct in not predicting the Chargers to make the playoffs this season, no one could have seen the poor play of Philip Rivers coming. Rivers has been more disappointing as a player this year than the entire Charger season.

    It's time to rebuild in San Diego, starting in the front office and coaches box. 


24. Arizona Cardinals

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    Preseason Odds: 60/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: C-

    The Cardinals have struggled along the offensive line and to find consistency at quarterback, but the defense is playing well, and the coaches have to be encouraged by the play of Chris Wells at running back. The Cardinals aren't playoff-ready yet, but they are getting closer.

    There's no quick fix here, but a win like this week's over the Dallas Cowboys is a sign that Ken Whisenhunt has his team headed in the right direction.

23. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Preseason Odds: 15/2

    Current Odds: 50/1

    Grade: F---

    The so-called "Dream Team" was supposed to run through the 2011 schedule on its way to a Super Bowl showdown with whomever the AFC dared to place in front of it. Something funny happened along the way, though. The Eagles, and the rest of the NFL, learned that it takes a team to win. Not all-stars.

    With few exceptions, everything about the Philadelphia Eagles season has been a massive disappointment. From top to bottom, a house cleaning is needed in Philadelphia. That includes Andy Reid, Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson.

22. Carolina Panthers

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    Preseason Odds: 125/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: B-

    No one thought the Carolina Panthers would do much this season, and to be fair they haven't. What has been great is the play of rookie first-rounder Cam Newton at quarterback—and the fact that Carolina has doubled its 2010 win total. Two good signs.

    Newton has played well above expectations and has the Panthers offense going in the right direction. Newton's abilities haven't led to wins, but you can see the potential he brings to the team. 

    Carolina is stuck in a very tough division, making the playoffs a distant hope, but at the very least the team is headed in the right direction and has a true building block in Newton.

21. Buffalo Bills

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    Preseason Odds: 150/1

    Current Odds: 100/1

    Grade: B

    It's hard to remember what the media and betting lines were saying about the Buffalo Bills before the season began. I, for one, didn't expect much from Buffalo. In fact, I had it slated to pick No. 1 overall in my preseason mock draft. 

    Buffalo proved me wrong when it jumped out to a hot start, but since that start the Bills have cooled considerably. Buffalo looks like a different team in Week 14 than it did in Week 6, losing five straight games and dropping back in the race for the playoffs.

    The Bills' season could still be considered a success if they turn out an 8-8 performance, but that means winning three of their final four. Going from top-three draft pick to the middle of the pack would be a great move in the right direction.

20. Seattle Seahawks

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    Preseason Odds: 100/1

    Current Odds: 150/1

    Grade: D+

    A 7-9 record in 2010 was good enough to win the NFC West for the Seattle Seahawks. While expecting a repeat performance may not have been realistic, there were those who wisely said this year's team would be better, even if the record wasn't.

    The Seahawks have struggled to get the same chemistry on and off the field all year, mostly at quarterback, where they haven't been able to replace Matt Hasselbeck. They also cut two starting linebackers and haven't found production from high draft choices along the offensive line.

    Personnel moves have derailed the Seahawks' hopes in 2011, but there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a stingy defense and a workhorse running back.

19. Miami Dolphins

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    Preseason Odds: 60/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: C

    Miami may be riding a hot streak, winning four of five, but it's too little too late, as Miami is eliminated from playoff contention. The Dolphins are playing for the job of their head coach, and even their own as individuals.

    The Dolphins appear ready to start over at head coach and quarterback yet again. The trouble is they are playing themselves out of a position to draft a top quarterback in the first round.

18. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Preseason Odds: 50/1

    Current Odds: Out

    Grade: D

    Coming off a 10-win season in 2010 and an AFC West title, the Kansas City Chiefs were expected to defend their crown this season. Even with a tougher schedule on the books, the Chiefs were too good to take a big step back—at least I thought so.

    Or not.

    Injuries are largely to blame, as there hasn't been a huge drop-off at key positions, but the sad fact is the Chiefs haven't lived up to expectations. Blame Todd Haley, Matt Cassel and/or ACL injuries to Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry. All that matters is the Chiefs are two games back in the West as the season comes down to the final stretch.

17. Chicago Bears

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    Preseason Odds: 30/1

    Current Odds: 30/1

    Grade: C

    What a difference two weeks make.

    The Chicago Bears entered Week 12 as possible favorites to face the Green Bay Packers once again in the NFC championship game. Now they're struggling to become playoff eligible without Jay Cutler at quarterback, and depending on Monday's test they may be without running back Matt Forte.

    The 2011 season can be written off in Chicago as a wasted year due to injury. You can bet Mike Martz will take the fall, as his offense has never developed into the weapon Lovie Smith expected it to be.

    Chicago will reload for the 2012 season, where it should be expected to contend for a title.

16. Oakland Raiders

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    Preseason Odds: 80/1

    Current Odds: 20/1

    Grade: A

    The preseason expectations weren't high in Oakland—maybe a moderate improvement over their 8-8 record of last season. A hot start had Oakland fans hoping for big things, but the midseason trade for Carson Palmer sparked legitimate Super Bowl hopes in Oakland.

    The Raiders may know a Super Bowl is unlikely this season, but a division title and run in the playoffs is reasonable if they can manage to win out. The schedule is brutal, and losses against the Miami Dolphins won't help. It's playoffs or bust in Oakland.

15. Tennessee Titans

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    Preseason Odds: 80/1

    Current Odds: 66/1

    Grade: B+

    The move to sign Matt Hasselbeck was met with a general yawn around the NFL; instead it has proven to be one of the best free-agent additions made all summer.

    Hasselbeck has been a star at quarterback for Tennessee, but unfortunately for the Titans Kenny Britt has been out with injury and Chris Johnson waited 12 weeks before deciding to show his game-changing ability.

    The play of Johnson has to be considered disappointing, but the rest of the Titans should be proud that through 13 weeks they are still in the hunt for the playoffs.

14. New York Giants

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    Preseason Odds: 28/1

    Current Odds: 25/1

    Grade: B-

    It has been an up-and-down season for the New York Giants.

    The team jumped out to an early lead in the NFC East but has since dropped four straight games, including a last-minute thriller against the undefeated Green Bay Packers.

    The Giants are good enough to hang with the best teams in the NFL, but they lack the killer instinct to put teams away—which has defined their season.

    The Giants may still make the playoffs, but they'll need help from the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons.

13. Detroit Lions

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    Preseason Odds: 30/1

    Current Odds: 42/1

    Grade: C-

    It was trendy to pick the Detroit Lions to make the playoffs before the season. Once they jumped out to a 5-0 record, it was a foregone conclusion they would make the postseason.

    Detroit has cooled some since that hot start, but the schedule has been tougher, and injuries have taken their toll. If Detroit can survive this midseason funk, it'll be road-tested for the playoffs.

    The playoff drought in Detroit should have ended this year, but Jim Schwartz's team continues to fall apart down the stretch—both mentally and physically.

12. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Preseason Odds: 150/1

    Current Odds: 50/1

    Grade: A++

    When the Cincinnati Bengals made it known that they were planning to play Andy Dalton, a second-round pick, at quarterback this season, very few people not employed by the Bengals thought they would do anything this year. Now they are in the wild-card hunt and still in the discussion as AFC North champs.

    Cincinnati is going in the right direction thanks to Marvin Lewis and his coordinators. Dalton to fellow rookie A.J. Green will be a bright spot in Cincinnati for years to come. The fact that they're in the driver's seat for a playoff berth as a wild-card team doesn't hurt either.

11. Denver Broncos

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    Preseason Odds: 100/1

    Current Odds: 40/1

    Grade: A

    No matter who you thought the quarterback would be to open or close the season, no one thought Denver would be leading the race for the AFC West title at this point in the season. At least, no one outside Denver thought so.

    Like him or not, Tim Tebow has been good enough for Denver's defense to carry it to a 5-1 record and take control of the West. Tebow will get the credit, but difference-makers on defense—Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil— have been outstanding. Also, credit Willis McGahee's hard running with Tebow in the lineup. 

    The Broncos may slow down over the next few games, but this is still a team playing well above its 2010 record. John Fox has to be considered for Coach of the Year.

10. New York Jets

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    Preseason Odds: 12/1

    Current Odds: 25/1

    Grade: D+

    Following two straight AFC championship game appearances, this was supposed to be the year the New York Jets made the move to a Super Bowl. Or not.

    To be completely honest, I didn't have the Jets predicted to make the playoffs this season. The lack of a No. 2 wide receiver and a true pass-rusher was too much for the Jets to overcome in my mind, and that's proven to be pretty damn accurate.

    Mark Sanchez is regressing, Rex Ryan looks even more foolish and overall this season has to be considered a disappointment. The Jets are hanging on to their 7-5 record, and they can't afford to lose again if they want to see the playoffs this season.

9. Dallas Cowboys

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    Preseason Odds: 20/1

    Current Odds: 10/1

    Grade: B+

    The Philadelphia Eagles may have been the hot team in the NFC East, but there were many who looked at the Dallas Cowboys and saw a division winner. At a minimum, the playoffs were to be expected. Unfortunately for me, I was not one of those people.

    Dallas is leading the NFC East despite a 7-5 record, giving it a solid spot as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs if the season ended today.

    The Cowboys need to do a better job offensively than they did in Week 13 against Arizona, where they couldn't run the ball to save their lives, if they hope to make a run in the postseason.

8. Atlanta Falcons

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    Preseason Odds: 16/1

    Current Odds: 20/1

    Grade: C

    The Atlanta Falcons won an NFC-leading 13 games in 2010, and even with an early exit from the playoffs they were tabbed as an elite contender for 2011 after adding Ray Edwards and Julio Jones to an already loaded roster.

    The Falcons have started out slow, but they are still a contender for the playoffs today and are getting hot at the right time.

    The season hasn't been a disappointment yet, but having to fight for a wild-card berth is not where the Falcons wanted to be.

7. Houston Texans

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    Preseason Odds: 20/1

    Current Odds: 15/1

    Grade: B

    Apparently the Houston Texans don't need Matt Schaub. Or Matt Leinart. Or Mario Williams. Or Andre Johnson.

    It defies logic that Houston can continue to win after looking at the injuries its roster has suffered this season, but strong defensive play and excellent running has Houston one win away from its first 10-win season.

    Houston had playoff hopes this year and would be looking for a new head coach unless the playoffs were a reality. Gary Kubiak's team has overcome many injuries to key players; overcoming one more will earn him a nice extension after the season.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Preseason Odds: 13/1

    Current Odds: 10/1

    Grade: B

    The Pittsburgh Steelers played in a Super Bowl last year; anything less than another chance at a ring this season will be a disappointment.

    Pittsburgh started the season slowly, but the Steelers have rebounded nicely down the stretch and are playing as well as anyone in the league. Problem is, with two losses to the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh will enter the playoffs as a wild-card team. That could mean a third matchup against Baltimore.

    I like the Steelers' chances, but they need to get consistent production from Rashard Mendenhall and hope their secondary can keep up the pace they've been running at as of late.

5. New England Patriots

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    Preseason Odds: 11/2

    Current Odds: 4/1

    Grade: B

    Coming off a 14-win season last year, we knew the New England Patriots would be good again, but they've flown under the radar of the Green Bay Packers this year. The Pats will sneak up on AFC opponents for the first time in a decade.

    The passing attack has been great, but the defense has been horrible and the run game inconsistent. Those are two things you need to win in January and February, and that the Patriots are lacking. If they can get things clicking in the next four weeks, a Tom Brady-led team is always dangerous.

    New England is in the driver's seat for the AFC East title, and the Pats are among the best teams in the AFC, but anything less than a Super Bowl win will be a disappointment this season.

4. New Orleans Saints

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    Preseason Odds: 12/1

    Current Odds: 7.5/1

    Grade: B

    I was not among those expecting a Super Bowl for New Orleans this season, but I know many smart men and women who picked them to make the big game. 

    Outside of Louisiana, the Saints have been fairly quiet. They don't get the recognition of the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers, and you don't hear them mentioned with the New England Patriots or Baltimore Ravens. That's right where Sean Payton wants his team.

    No one will see the Saints coming, but as the likely No. 3 seed in the NFC, they'll face a tough road to a Super Bowl appearance.

3. San Francisco 49ers

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    Preseason Odds: 16/1

    Current Odds: 9/1

    Grade: A∞

    Admit it—no one thought the San Francisco 49ers would make the playoffs this year. First-year head coach, bust at quarterback, washed-up veteran at cornerback...this wasn't a playoff team.

    But they are, having clinched the NFC West this week. It feels like 1990 in San Francisco.

    The 49ers are rolling behind that first-year head coach and bust at quarterback. Alex Smith is a contender for Comeback Player of the Year, and Jim Harbaugh is the Coach of the Year, no questions asked. Oh, and the washed-up veteran at cornerback, Carlos Rogers, is playing All-Pro football.

    Every move has worked for the 49ers, who are riding an unbelievable 34-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. A home playoff game and a shot at the NFC championship game are realistic hopes for fans of the 49ers. And yes, that does sound crazy.

2. Baltimore Ravens

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    Preseason Odds: 16/1

    Current Odds: 9/1

    Grade: A+

    The Baltimore Ravens have never missed the playoffs with John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco leading the team. This was to be the year they went from a playoff team to a Super Bowl team. If the regular season means anything, this just might be their year.

    Injury to Matt Schaub has realistically ended Houston's shot at the Super Bowl, and the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are playing below the level Baltimore is at this year. If there's ever been a perfect scenario for the Ravens to make a run, this is it.

    The team has to be worried about the production it is getting from Flacco and the lack of a run game as the offense forgets about Ray Rice, but there is enough talent here to really push in January once the weather gets cold. If Baltimore can lock up the No. 1 seed, it'll be my pick to make the Super Bowl.

1. Green Bay Packers

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    Preseason Odds: 7/1

    Current Odds: 1.6/1

    Grade: A+

    The playoffs were expected for the defending Super Bowl champions—but no one could have expected 12 straight wins to start the season.

    Some may complain that the Packers haven't beat a quality team (see Detroit, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta). Others will whine that the Packers almost lost in Week 13. Here's the thing—they didn't lose, and that's what matters.

    Sit back and enjoy what is sure to be a magical next four weeks in Green Bay.