NFL Power Rankings Week 15: Projecting Records for All 32 Teams
Power is a fleeting quality, especially in the NFL.
One week, you are a contender. The next, you're fading down in the playoff race (just ask the Bills). Teams can also go in the reverse direction (just ask the Broncos).
Only one team has been dominant all season and is aiming for perfection. The rest are trying to finish the season on a high note which will either give postseason contenders a shot at the Super Bowl or give the lowly clubs reason to be excited for 2012.
Here is how each of the 32 franchises rank, along with the record that they'll finish the year with in parentheses.
32. Indianapolis Colts (1-15)
Just two years removed from near perfection, the Colts look to be on pace to match the '08 Lions for ultimate futility.
With no wins in their first 13 tires, pitiful Indy appears headed down the winless track.
However, Dan Orlovsky has been the best starting quarterback the team has had this season. So, he has a chance to win a game if puts a hot streak together. And he will...over the lowly Jaguars in Week 17.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-14)
A victory against the powerful New Orleans Saints is the only real triumph for this lowly Rams club.
That's surprising, because it appeared that Sam Bradford and St. Louis were headed for an improvement in 2011 after nearly winning the NFC West last year.
But six straight losses to start 2011 and a current streak of four consecutive defeats show that the Rams need to get back to the drawing board.
30. Minnesota Vikings (2-14)
The Vikes were a struggling club even with stud running back Adrian Peterson.
It certainly didn't help that he wasn't in the lineup against the Detroit Lions. However, quarterback Joe Webb provided a spark. Replacing Christian Ponder mid-game, Webb brought Minnesota back into the contest and gave them a chance to win in the final seconds.
It's unknown who the Vikings will have taking snaps for the last three games. Either way, wins will still be hard to come by.
29. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Just as is the case with Sam Bradford and the Rams, we expected more from Colt McCoy and the Browns.
Not only are they 4-9. But their victories have come against less-than-stiff competition: Seattle, Miami, Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
Being the 29th-ranked rushing club and the worst in stopping the run are two reasons why they are decorating the cellar of the AFC North.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
It's hard to figure out how this team went from being a playoff contender at the end of 2010 to a lousy club in December 2011.
Injuries didn't help the running game at all, while the defense remains at the bottom in most categories. In addition, quarterback Josh Freeman has regressed in his third NFL season.
Head coach Raheem Morris better hope he still has a job when the year reaches its conclusion.
27. Washington Redskins (5-11)
The Redskins unexpectedly kept their matchup with the heavily-favored New England Patriots a close one. They ultimately lost, which was not unexpected.
Washington may have found a new starting running back in Roy Helu, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the past two games. Unfortunately, there are numerous weak spots that need to be filled.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)
The poor Jags offense found some life on Sunday in the form of their only weapon. Maurice Jones-Drew set a franchise scoring record with four trips to the end zone. Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert was able to throw for 217 yards and two TDs, although he did have a pair of picks.
Can they keep this up down the stretch? Against Atlanta and Tennessee, the chances are slim. However, Indy is a golden opportunity to notch one more victory. It's too bad that a Colts team desperate to get into the win column will get their only "W" at the Jaguars' expense.
25. Miami Dolphins (5-11)
Four wins in a five-week stretch showed dramatic improvement from the Dolphins under new quarterback Matt Moore.
However, a loss on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles combined with an early season swoon was enough for management to fire Tony Sparano.
The change in leadership shouldn't stop Miami from notching at least one more victory.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
It appears as if no team has lost as many nail-biters as the Carolina Panthers have.
The latest came in a narrow defeat to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
For Cam Newton and the rest of Ron Rivera's club, this will be a learning experience. Sooner or later, their up-and-coming quarterback is going to learn how to win these tight games. He's thrilling fans now with his play, but his ability to pull out victories is what is most important.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (5-11)
Take away Matt Cassel and the K.C. offense becomes difficult to watch under Tyler Palko.
The Chiefs were hopeful when the 2011 season began. But after injuries to Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and their starting quarterback, Kansas City is hoping that next year brings better luck. One thing's for certain, they'll have a new head coach, as Todd Haley was fired on Monday.
22. Buffalo Bills (5-11)
The Chiefs opened up this season with a brutal 41-0 loss to the Bills at Arrowhead Stadium, and it appeared as if things were changing in Buffalo.
A 5-2 start upheld those thoughts.
After that, the bottom has fallen out. Fred Jackson's injury notwithstanding, the Bills have turned back into the team that was mired in mediocrity for the entire 2000s.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Philadelphia must be kicking itself over what could have been this year.
Considering the fact that first place in the NFC East has a less-than-impressive mark of 7-6, the Eagles had the capabilities of running away with the division.
Instead of jumping on their opportunities, Philly failed miserably.
20. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
While the Philadelphia Eagles are 2011's greatest disappointment, the San Diego Chargers are the runners-up.
A six-game losing streak has been followed up with two straight victories, which gives the possibility of another San Diego hot streak down the stretch.
Could the Bolts go on a run to finish off the year? Absolutely.
Does it mean that they'll catch first place Denver Broncos (two games back)? Probably not.
19. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Give Pete Carroll credit. With less-than-average quarterback play and a team filled with mostly unknowns, the Seahawks have faint playoff chances. Not many thought that was even possible earlier this season.
Carroll should give most of his thanks to a rejuvenated Marshawn Lynch. The powerful running back has run for more than 100 yards in five of the past six games.
18. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
The Cards have taken the title of spoiler in 2011. First, they upset the Dallas Cowboys in dramatic fashion. Then, last Sunday, came back to top the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers.
Larry Fitzgerald is a big reason for Arizona's success lately. Against the Niners, No. 11 had seven catches for 149 yards and a TD.
The Cardinals could deal a crushing blow to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16.
17. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
Carson Palmer and the Raiders have lost control of the division lead and now are looking up at the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
With blowout defeats at the hands of the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers, Oakland is 7-6 with a tough stretch to finish out the year. It looks like another .500 campaign and a commitment to mediocrity to the silver and black.
16. Chicago Bears (8-8)
The loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos may have sealed their fate for good. Chicago will be lucky to pull out any more than one victory over the season's final three weeks.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
Cincinnati has played well above expectations with a 7-6 record up to this point. But with losses to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco and (most recently) Houston, it's apparent that they're not ready to hang with the class of the conference.
Andy Dalton will still get votes for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he won't be seeing the playoffs in 2011. He'll make it down the road, but he'll have to wait for now.
14. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Rookie Jake Locker nearly came to the rescue on Sunday, getting within yards of leading the Titans past the New Orleans Saints and making their playoff outlook much brighter.
Instead, they've been dimmed slightly.
For first year head coach Mike Munchak and his squad, they must take advantage of the next two games: at Indy, vs. Jacksonville. Those are wins on paper. Then comes a trip to Houston, where the Texans may have their seeding already locked up by the time they play.
13. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Cowboy fans must be shaking in their boots, hoping that another December swoon isn't upon them.
After blowing a 12-point fourth quarter lead to the New York Giants on Sunday night and falling into a tie for the NFC East lead, how can you not blame them?
Dallas can exact revenge in the season's final week and hope that a playoff spot is still available.
12. New York Giants (9-7)
One team's falling apart is the other team's coming together.
The New York Giants may have saved their season with a dramatic victory in Dallas. Eli Manning and company weathered the storm that was their brutal midseason schedule.
Coming up are three straight games at MetLife Stadium to finish the year, including a meeting with the Jets and a showdown with the aforementioned Cowboys.
11. Detroit Lions (10-6)
The undisciplined Lions nearly blew it when they almost lost a large lead to the Minnesota Vikings on their home turf. Fortunately, they came through to preserve their playoff chances. If the season ended today, Detroit would be the No. 6 seed.
For the Lions to hold on, they must win two of their final three (Oakland, San Diego and Green Bay). More importantly, they can't commit as many penalties as they have over the past few games.
10. New York Jets (10-6)
As it is customary for the Cowboys to struggle during this time of year, it is quite the opposite for the New York Jets.
Rex Ryan's club heats up when the weather gets cold. That's been the case in each of the last two seasons.
All signs point to another run this year. QB Mark Sanchez accounted for four touchdowns in a blowout victory over Kansas City, which gave the Jets their third straight win and puts them into the final slot in the playoffs.
9. Denver Broncos (10-6)
With a majority of his seven victories coming in dramatic fashion, Tim Tebow has proven that games can always be won if faith is never lost.
Winners of six straight, the Broncos are now sitting in first place in the AFC West thanks to a quarterback that is the most fascinating figure in the NFL.
But credit also has to be given to a defense that has allowed Denver to remain within striking distance of victory each week.
8. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
A 2-3 start would give some reason to believe that the Falcons were having a hangover from last season's early playoff exit.
But with six victories in eight tries, Atlanta is looking like its old self. The only two losses came to Houston and New Orleans, the latter being a devastating loss that it would like to have back in the race for the NFC South.
Nevertheless, the Falcons occupy the No. 5 seed if the season were to end today.
7. Houston Texans (13-3)
There hasn't been a more resilient club in the NFL this season than the Houston Texans.
Despite having lost Mario Williams for the year, Andre Johnson twice, staring quarterback Matt Schaub, as well as backup QB Matt Leinart, the Texans have yet to fall apart.
Instead, they are making team history. Under the direction of third-string signal-caller T.J. Yates, the Texans pulled out a last-second victory in Cincinnati that clinched the AFC South and the franchise's first playoff berth.
With Yates managing the game, the running backs continuing to be stout, and with the defense continuing to be stifling, Houston may not have as big of a problem as we thought three weeks back.
6. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
The loss at Arizona on Sunday may very well cost them a shot at bye week and a home playoff game, which could prove crucial for an inexperienced postseason team in need of a comforting environment.
Pittsburgh's defense is anything but comfortable, and that is what Niners QB Alex Smith faces this Monday night in San Francisco. Here's saying that will be another "L" and a guarantee that Jim Harbaugh's team will be playing on Wild Card Weekend.
5. New England Patriots (13-3)
Tom Brady is still his great self at the quarterback position. It's almost unfair that he has a tight end like Rob Gronkowski at his disposal.
Brady and the offense is a guarantee to put up the necessary points to win any game. It's the defense that's the ultimate question. How this group fares from now will be the determining factor in how far they go in the postseason.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
Ben Roethlisberger can't avoid pain. The latest injury came this past Thursday, as a high ankle sprain temporarily put him out of a contest with the Cleveland Browns.
Losing Big Ben would be bad, but having a defense that falters would be worse. The good news is that neither have shown signs of a drop-off over the past few seasons.
The hopes of winning out and improving their seeding in the playoffs starts with a trip to San Francisco.
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
You can look a their victory at Tennessee two different ways.
Either it's a gut-check win against a good opponent or it's a game in which the New Orleans offense struggled on the road once again.
Whichever perspective you may have, you can't deny that the Saints are the clear-cut No. 2 team in the NFC.
2. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
By winning out, the Ravens can lock up the top seed in the AFC. Of the three remaining contests, the matchup with San Diego this Sunday night may be their most difficult.
A loss may not only mean forgoing home field advantage. Baltimore could also relinquish the division title to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Suffice it to say, there is little time for this playoff-bound team to relax.
1. Green Bay Packers (16-0)
It's hard to remember many players that have played better than Aaron Rodgers is playing this year.
He will run away with the MVP thanks in part to his insane statistics. He'll also be a part of history, as the Packers are going to take down the next three regular season foes and end up with a 16-0 mark heading into the postseason.