NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Grades for Every Team
Much has changed since the last time we met. The Green Bay Packers have their first loss. The Indianapolis Colts have their first win. How will the outcomes of these two games shake up this week's NFL power rankings?
As the playoffs get closer, we take a look at this week's games and let you know which teams passed and failed in their attempts to gain victories.
32. Indianapolis Colts
This week: Beat Tennessee Titans 27-13
No one expected the Indianapolis Colts to get their first win of the season today, but they did by stifling the Tennessee Titan run game and frustrating veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
The Colts face a tough road ahead the next two weeks, and the season is all but lost, but it was great to see the team come out with a fire in their bellies when everyone predicted a loss for them this week.
31. St. Louis Rams
This Week: Lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 20-13
The St. Louis Rams are anxiously awaiting the end of this horrible, forgettable season. They're just hoping to get out of 2011 with their jobs in tact.
Head coach Steve Spagnuolo will receive much of the heat from a two-win season, but let's not forget about the injuries this team has suffered, or how much a shortened offseason affected a team bringing in a new offensive system.
This week wasn't pretty, but the Rams played hard and fought to the bitter end.
30. Minnesota Vikings
This Week: Lost to the New Orleans Saints 42-20
This one was ugly, and there's no other way to put it. The Minnesota Vikings flat out got their tails whipped.
Minnesota looked promising with young quarterback Christian Ponder just weeks ago, but since Ponder has struggled and the team has missed Adrian Peterson due to injury and then again this week due to a small role in the offense.
There is a lot to build around in Minnesota, but a revamped offensive line and secondary have to be on the offseason agenda.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
This Week: Lost to the Atlanta Falcons 41-14
If the Jacksonville Jaguars were trying to act as postseason momentum for the Atlanta Falcons, they did one hell of a job. If they were trying to win a football game, I have no idea what that was Thursday night.
The Jaguars have many problems, and those won't be solved in the two weeks that remain on the schedule and they probably cannot be solved in just on offseason. Getting a better threat at wide receiver, or multiple threats, will help. Getting healthy on defense for 2012 will be key as well.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This Week: Lost to the Dallas Cowboys 31-15
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost eight straight games, putting the job security of head coach Raheem Morris at an all-time low. Morris isn't the only one who should be worried. Many players once considered building blocks are on the verge of being asked or allowed to leave.
Running back LeGarrette Blount was a one-time franchise back, but now he looks like a secondary back. Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber is likely to retire, and may take troubled cornerback Aqib Talib with him on his way out of town.
The Buccaneers at least fought hard against the Dallas Cowboys, but they were clearly outmatched against a superior team in every aspect of the game.
27. Buffalo Bills
This Week: Lost to the Miami Dolphins 30-23
The Buffalo Bills dropped their seventh straight game this weekend, but over the course of those seven weeks, the Bills are remaining competitive even in defeat.
There's nothing good to be taken away from the collapse of the Bills this season. A 5-2 start has been ruined by injury, bad play and poor coaching. If Chan Gailey is able to save his job as head coach, I'll inquire as to how many naked photos he has of Buddy Nix tucked away.
The Bills have solid building blocks in place, and with a healthy Fred Jackson back next fall, they should be ready to compete in the AFC East.
26. Cleveland Browns
This Week: Lost to the Arizona Cardinals 20-17 in overtime.
It would be unfair to fault the Cleveland Browns for losing to the red-hot Arizona Cardinals, especially considering they took a superior team to playoffs minus their starting quarterback.
Cleveland entered the game without Colt McCoy and played well against a defense that has been on fire as of late. The play of the Cleveland defense during regulation, as well as big days from Peyton Hillis and Greg Little, should be encouraging.
The Browns' season will go down as another in a long line of disappointments, but the building blocks are being developed and put into place for this team to succeed very soon. Having two selections in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft definitely helps.
25. Carolina Panthers
This Week: Beat the Houston Texans 28-13
This was the best I have seen the Carolina Panthers look all season. Facing a top-five defense, the Panthers did what they pleased with the ball and made the Houston Texans look like bottom-feeders instead of the former top seed in the AFC.
Carolina may not be ready to compete in the loaded NFC South this season, but their improvement from two wins in 2010 to now has been very impressive. Watching the continued improvement of quarterback and Rookie of the Year favorite Cam Newton will be a treat for all football fans.
24. Washington Redskins
This Week: Beat the New York Giants 23-10
Someone forgot to tell the Washington Redskins that this game didn't matter. On the flip side, someone forgot to tell the New York Giants they would lose their hold on the NFC East without a win today.
The Redskins played as well as I've seen all season. Roy Helu, Jr. has emerged as a viable feature back and the defense is playing as well as anyone could hope. Mike Shanahan is a quarterback and some help at wide receiver away from having a damn fine team.
23. Chicago Bears
This Week: Lost to the Seattle Seahawks 38-14
I'm not sure the Chicago Bears could have beat the Indianapolis Colts this week. A team who has been decimated on offense due to injury, Chicago is limping to the end of the season.
Jay Cutler may be back this week at quarterback, but it could be too late for the 7-7 Bears. Chicago is technically still alive for the playoffs, but they need help from the other teams with the same record while winning out if they want in.
This season can be considered a major disappointment for the Bears.
22. Oakland Raiders
This Week: Lost to the Detroit Lions 28-27
While I will never believe in moral victories, especially when the playoffs are on the line, the Oakland Raiders should feel good about how well they played against the Detroit Lions. Feeling good about how you play is much different than feeling great about a win, though.
The Raiders still make too many mistakes, both in penalties and interceptions, for a contender. The talent is there, but the Raiders shoot themselves in the foot far too often to be taken seriously as a contender for the AFC West title with two weeks left.
21. Miami Dolphins
This Week: Beat the Buffalo Bills 30-23
The best kept secret of the 2011 season has been the play of the Miami Dolphins down the stretch. Miami won't be a playoff team, but they haven't given up on their season after a horrible start. A big key to that turnaround has been the running of Reggie Bush.
A forgotten man just six months ago, Bush is close to a 1,000-yard rushing season after going for over 200 yards on the ground Sunday. Bush has resurrected his career in Miami and is proving he can be a real threat at running back when used correctly.
Miami is facing a tumultuous offseason with a new head coach coming in, but the talent on defense and keys on offense like Bush and Jake Long will keep Miami in contention.
20. Arizona Cardinals
This Week: Beat the Cleveland Browns 20-17 in overtime
A win is a win, but going to overtime against an inferior team like the Cleveland Browns isn't how the Cardinals should be winning late in the year.
The fact that the Cardinals are still playing meaningful football is amazing, especially considering their start. Arizona has rallied around John Skelton at quarterback, and as he improves the team gets great production from Beanie Wells and Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals are at least one year away from competing for the NFC West title, but once they get better play from their offensive line, watch out.
19. Kansas City Chiefs
This Week: Beat the undefeated Green Bay Packers 19-14
Giant killers. That's what the Kansas City Chiefs are this week. In their first game under interim head coach Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs played the kind of defense no one thought possible against the previously unbeatable Green Bay offense.
I picked Kansas City to win the AFC West before the season, and while injuries will keep that from happening, there is a great foundation for a future run at the playoffs and a Super Bowl.
Whether it's Romeo Crennel keeping the job or an outsider coming in, Scott Pioli has built a roster that can win multiple division titles over the next five years.
18. Tennessee Titans
This Week: Lost to the Indianapolis Colts 27-13
It really doesn't get worse than this.
Not only did the Tennessee Titans lose a key game while their playoff hopes rest on every single game, they lost to a team that hadn't won an entire game all season.
If there is a grade worse than an "F", that's what the Titans deserve this week. From top to bottom, there was nothing good about this game.
17. Philadelphia Eagles
This Week: Beat the New York Jets 45-19
It may seem like too little too late from the Philadelphia Eagles, but believe it not, they are still alive in the NFC East.
The Eagles were dominant on Sunday, completely shutting down the New York Jets in every facet of the game. This is the type of performance we expected from the Eagles before the season began. Perhaps they are just hitting their stride late thanks in part to the lockout.
What we do know is that this is a talented roster, and when everything comes together as it did on Sunday, they can beat any team in the NFL.
16. San Diego Chargers
This Week: Beat to the Baltimore Ravens 34-14
When the San Diego Chargers needed it most they found amazing play from Mike Tolbert, Jared Gaither, Antwan Barnes and Philip Rivers. This was an outing from what we all expected San Diego to look like this season.
San Diego can't breath easy yet. It is still one game back from the Denver Broncos in the AFC West and unlikely to secure a wild card spot if they cannot win out. The Chargers are hot at the right time, winning three straight games, but a tough road is ahead.
15. Seattle Seahawks
This Week: Beat the Chicago Bears 38-14
The playoffs remain a hope in Seattle, thanks to a big win over the Chicago Bears.
Seattle went on the road in a short week and played a team known for their stout defense. They then went ahead to hang 38 points on that vaunted defense.
Pete Carroll deserves considerable credit for his turnaround of the Seahawks not only this season, but over the last two seasons. Carroll has an elite defense, a pounding run game and an efficient quarterback who few believed in, Tarvaris Jackson. Seattle may miss the playoffs, but they will be a tough out for everyone they face.
14. New York Giants
This Week: Lost to the Washington Redskins 23-10
With the No. 1 seed in the NFC East at stake, the New York Giants laid an egg against a division rival on Sunday. Not good enough for a team we're supposed to believe are contenders.
The Giants' offense never got going, and their supposed strength of a pass rush and elite receivers were non-factors on Sunday.
With two weeks to go, the Giants trail the Dallas Cowboys in the division and won't have the luxury of a wildcard berth, as they rank behind the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions in the standings.
13. Cincinnati Bengals
This Week: Beat the St. Louis Rams 20-13
With the playoffs on the line, the Cincinnati Bengals won a trap game to remain alive for the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff race.
Cincinnati did all they could, but now they need help from the New York Jets. Cincinnati will need to win out while hoping for another loss by the Jets, or that the AFC West race becomes so convoluted that no team is eligible for a wildcard position.
The Bengals' season has to be considered a success, as no one could have imagined they would be fighting for a playoff spot with two weeks to go.
12. Denver Broncos
This Week: Lost to the New England Patriots 41-23
The magic of Tim Tebow ran out on Sunday against a defense that adapted to the Denver offense. New England was a great test for the Broncos, and it proved to be the better team in every way.
Denver has issues, and chief among those is its inability to rally from large deficits or throw the football to open rushing lanes. Against good defenses, the Broncos will struggle, against against teams with a good defense and an excellent offense, they don't have a chance.
Denver's loss puts it back into the mix in the AFC West playoff race. It needs to win out if it wants to be playing once the calendar turns to January.
11. New York Jets
This Week: Lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 45-19
Paint it however you want, the New York Jets took a beating on Sunday. Does this expose the Jets as a playoff pretender? I would argue that was done weeks ago. What this game does is verify the thoughts of anyone who called the Jets pretenders all along.
New York was out-played, out-coached and out-manned on Sunday. Its lack of consistency and efficiency on offense had been a problem all season, and against a good defense it was apparent on Sunday.
The Jets are still alive in the playoff race, but they must win out to keep their hold on the No. 6 seed.
10. Dallas Cowboys
This Week: Beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-15
The Dallas Cowboys did all they could this week, and with a New York Giants loss on Sunday, Dallas is now in control of the NFC East.
The division will almost assuredly come down to Week 17, but the Cowboys have to feel good about their situation as of Week 16. Win and they are in. It's that simple.
With DeMarco Murray out, Dallas found production from Felix Jones and Sammy Morris. If they can get similar production in the playoffs, Dallas will be very tough to beat.
9. Detroit Lions
This Week: Beat the Oakland Raiders 28-27
With 98 yards in front of them and down six points, the Detroit Lions took the football and marched down the field. Matthew Stafford played like the former No. 1 overall pick and franchise quarterback the Lions knew he could be. It helps that the Raiders failed to cover Calvin Johnson, but Stafford was brilliant in getting him the ball.
The Lions are one week away from clinching a wildcard berth. With an explosive offense and a tough defense, the Lions are one team that no one wants to face in the playoffs.
And yes, we're talking about the playoffs and the Lions in the same sentence. That has to feel good in Detroit.
8. Houston Texans
This Week: Lost to the Carolina Panthers 28-13
This is not how a No. 1 seed in the AFC plays.
Sure, the Houston Texans are minus their starting quarterback, best wide receiver, star pass rusher and their defensive coodinator. Yes, those are big obstacles. But the Carolina Panthers? Really?
Houston's strength was their defense, and I say "was" because that's long gone until Wade Phillips is back on the sideline. A rookie quarterback torched the Texans, and a second-tier offensive line pushed around one of the best defenses in the game.
Houston needs a fix, otherwise it will be one and done when the playoffs come around.
7. Atlanta Falcons
This Week: Beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-14
If the NFL awarded style points, the Atlanta Falcons would have been +100 this week.
With the entire NFL fan base watching on Thursday night, the Atlanta Falcons beat down the Jacksonville Jaguars, cementing their status as one of the best teams in the game. Atlanta's talent on offense is rivaled only by the speed on their defense. If you haven't taken notice of Sean Weatherspoon or Brent Grimes this year, you're missing out.
Atlanta is built to make a run in the playoffs. Even on the road, it will be tough picking against the Falcons.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
This Week: The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-3.
The Steelers all but lost their shot at a first-round bye when they lost to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. The season isn't a failure, by any means, but losing their shot at a bye hurts.
What hurts more is the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Anyone watching Monday night saw Big Ben hobbling through the pain and trying to play. Getting him healthy before the playoffs is key for the Steelers' chances.
5. Baltimore Ravens
This Week: Lost to the San Diego Chargers 34-14
The Baltimore Ravens' weakness may have been found Sunday night in the form of a speedy pass rush and an offense that can push the ball vertically.
Baltimore stumbled on Sunday night, moving from potentially the No. 1 overall seed all the way down to the No. 5 seed. That means not only an opening round game, but also the loss of homefield advantage.
Baltimore is good enough to rebound, but their playoff lives are in the hands of their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
4. New England Patriots
This Week: Beat the Denver Broncos 41-23
Now we know the New England Patriot offense can outscore even the best defenses, but I'm still worried about the state of the Patriot defense. Is this really a Super Bowl winning squad?
The Patriots did all that could have been asked of them offensively Sunday in taking down the Denver Broncos. They out-scored an offense that few NFL teams have been able to figure out. Tom Brady was brilliant as usual. There are no doubts about this offense.
The defense, on the other hand, terrifies me. The Patriots may have contained Tim Tebow and the Bronco offense, but they also allowed 252 yards rushing. Patriot fans will tell you this is their "bend but don't break" defense. I'm not quite as sold.
3. San Francisco 49ers
This Week: The San Francisco 49ers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-3.
The San Francisco 49ers made a statement with a key win Monday night over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even against a banged up Pittsburgh offense, the 49ers proved they are able to score on an elite defense and shutdown a high-profile passing game.
This is the momentum the 49ers needed heading into the postseason. They are still alive as the No. 2 seed in the NFC and could host a playoff game for the first time in 12 years.
2. New Orleans Saints
This Week: The New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 42-20
Drew Brees is really good. Of course as an avid NFL fan, you know this.
The New Orleans Saints are really good. And if you don't know that, write it down. If any team can challenge the Green Bay Packers in the NFC, it's not the San Francisco 49ers or Detroit Lions. It's the Saints.
New Orleans has the offensive fire-power and defensive smarts to keep up with the Packers' energetic pace and high-scoring ways. Don't sleep on these Saints. If they can secure the No. 2 seed, the road to the NFC Championship game will be paved for them.
1. Green Bay Packers
This Week: The Green Bay Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14
What a disaster. The Green Bay Packers had us all believing they would go undefeated, but it's not so much the fact that the Packers lost, it's how they lost.
The Kansas City Chiefs were dominant in every way. With both starting offensive tackles injured the Kansas City defense made Aaron Rodgers look like Alex Smith, sacking him four times and keeping the talented passer to just one touchdown pass.
The Packers will need to fix what ails them, and quickly. Those suggesting the Packers can now sit their starters must realize Green Bay has yet to lock up the No. 1 seed.