NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Projecting Records After Final Week

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIDecember 26, 2011

NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Projecting Records After Final Week

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    Entering Week 17, the final week of the NFL season, we've seen plenty of changes in the power rankings from Week 1. We've also seen record projections change drastically from the beginning of the season until now.

    Could anyone have guessed that the San Francisco 49ers would be 12-3 at this point of the season? Or that Tim Tebow would be leading the Denver Broncos to the playoffs?

    Here are the NFL power rankings for Week 17 and the final projected records to the year.

32. St. Louis Rams

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    It's almost as if the St. Louis Rams gave up on their season about four weeks ago.

    After beating the New Orleans Saints for their first win of the season back in Week 8, many thought that the Rams would turn their season around. However, that didn't happen as St. Louis put A.J. Feeley and Kellen Clemens out on the field as starting quarterback.

    The lone bright spot for St. Louis this season has been Steven Jackson, as he is once again having an excellent all-around season.

    Final Record Projection: 2-14

    With a final remaining game against the San Francisco 49ers, it really looks like the Rams may end up with the top draft pick in the 2012 NFL draft. I wonder if they would draft Andrew Luck if they had the opportunity.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    I debated putting the Jacksonville Jaguars in last place, but they put together a tough effort against the Tennessee Titans.

    Maurice Jones-Drew put up another 100-yard rushing game, and he continues to get loads of sympathy from me for having to play for an awful team. His current situation is worse than Adrian Peterson or Steven Jackson because it appears as if Jacksonville doesn't have a bright future.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Jaguars draft another quarterback early in the 2012 NFL draft to replace Gabbert. The man just simply doesn't have what it takes to succeed in the league right now.

    Final Record Projection: 4-12

    You'd think that the Jaguars would be excited about playing the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17. However, the Colts have won two straight and will likely destroy Jacksonville.

30. Minnesota Vikings

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    With news that Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL in Sunday's win over the Washington Redskins, you have to wonder what management is thinking for the Minnesota Vikings.

    I mean, the Vikings really didn't have anything to play for, so there was really no reason for them to put Peterson back on the field. I know that Peterson is a warrior who doesn't want to miss time, but in that situation, you need to tell your franchise player, and the best running back in the league, to just sit on the bench and take it like a man.

    On a happier note, Minnesota did win their third game of the season.

    Final Record Projection: 4-12

    Even without Peterson I still see the Vikings beating the Chicago Bears in Week 17. This game will feature backup running backs, and Toby Gerhart is better than either of Chicago's backups.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost nine straight games. This was supposed to be a team that battled for the NFC South crown.

    It's hard to pinpoint the exact problem for Tampa Bay, but lack of effort and Josh Freeman's play seem to be a good starting point. Freeman has taken giant steps backwards in his development this year. He was supposed to become the next "elite" quarterback, but now he is fighting for his starting job.

    As far as the lack of effort goes, the Buccaneers have given up over 30 points in the last four games. They've also failed to score over 20 points in that same span.

    Final Record Projection: 4-12

    The Buccaneers get the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17, and Atlanta should be hungry for a win. It looks like Tampa Bay will lose their 10th straight game to end the season.

28. Indianapolis Colts

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    I have this strange feeling that the Indianapolis Colts got sick of all this Andrew Luck talk and decided to win games for Peyton Manning. For being one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, Manning hasn't gotten enough respect about him being able to return successfully from injury.

    If the Colts win their last game and the St. Louis Rams lose, they won't have the top draft pick. While it's unlikely that St. Louis would draft Luck, it also means that Indianapolis will have some competition from the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins in trading for the No. 1 pick.

    Personally, I feel that Indianapolis shouldn't draft Luck, but that is a different story.

    Final Record Projection: 3-13

    With their final game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts will finish the season with three straight wins.

27. Cleveland Browns

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    I was really rooting for the Cleveland Browns this year to finally make a real push at the playoffs.

    The defense looks like a playoff contender, as they are young and talented. Unfortunately, the defense has gotten no help from their offense.

    The only positions that the Browns have set on offense are at center and left tackle. Other than that, everyone's job is up for grabs. Yes, that includes Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis.

    It's been another difficult year for the people of Cleveland, but it should turn around soon.

    Final Record Projection: 4-12

    The Browns get their last game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and even with the game being played at home, they don't stand a chance.

26. Washington Redskins

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    The Washington Redskins got off to a hot start this season, but they have completely fizzled recently. Sure, they beat the New York Giants in Week 15, but that was more missed opportunities by New York than quality play from Washington.

    First, they absolutely need to find a new quarterback. They didn't get one last year when they needed one and look at where they are now. If they don't draft a quarterback, look for them to make a strong push for a guy like Matt Flynn in free agency.

    Secondly, their defense is actually pretty talented. They need some help in the secondary, but their ability to create pressure has been pretty good this year.

    It's possible that this team is only a solid quarterback away from making some noise next year.

    Final Record Projection: 5-11

    I like the way the Philadelphia Eagles are playing to end their season, and I don't like the way the Redskins are playing. Guess who is going to lose.

25. Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins are actually a better team than a lot of people give them credit. Since Week 9, they've gone 5-3 and two of their losses came by a combined score of four points. They could easily be 7-9 right now.

    What I like most about this team is that they were committed to giving Reggie Bush a chance. We all know the type of skill set he has; he just hasn't been able to fully showcase it because of injuries and mistakes.

    However, now that we've seen what he can do as an every-down back, he could be a rather special player in this league. With a strong defense and a better quarterback, Miami could surprise some people next year.

    Final Record Projection: 5-11

    As much as I like the Dolphins' matchup against the New York Jets, I can't see them winning. The Jets have this way of always sneaking into the playoffs, and I don't think Miami will stop them from doing it this year.

24. Kansas City Chiefs

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    One week after beating the best team in football, the Kansas City Chiefs came out completely flat against the Oakland Raiders.

    They struggled to move the ball efficiently and didn't play as good of coverage as they did against the Green Bay Packers. However, with as many crucial injuries as Kansas City has suffered this year, you have to like the fact that they are still a competitive football team.

    Give credit to management for finding suitable replacement for players like Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry.

    Final Record Projection: 7-9

    Kansas City's last game is against the Denver Broncos, and yes, I believe that Kansas City will stop Tim Tebow from making the playoffs.

23. San Diego Chargers

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    I was ready to get behind the San Diego Chargers until they came out completely flat against the Detroit Lions. They lost 38-10 and looked like their old selves while doing so.

    With a chance to still make the playoffs, you have to come out and give a better performance than what San Diego gave on Sunday. That makes me think that the problem is the coach, Norv Turner.

    If you can't prepare your team for a big game, you don't belong on the sidelines.

    Final Record Projection: 7-9

    The Chargers are a lost cause at this point in the season, and there is no way they will beat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

22. Arizona Cardinals

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    The Arizona Cardinals have been a surprise team of late, as they've won six of their last eight games.

    A big reason for their success has been the play of backup quarterback John Skelton. It makes you wonder if Skelton will be part of some major trade talks in he offseason. Perhaps it will be Kevin Kolb instead.

    Either way, with the emergence of Beanie Wells and Patrick Peterson, this team looks in good shape for 2012.

    Final Record Projection: 7-9

    The Cardinals get the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17, who have been just as surprising as Arizona in the last two months. The problem for the Cardinals is that Seattle is the better team.

21. Buffalo Bills

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    Even though the Buffalo Bills had a major slide of seven straight losses in the middle of the season, there are still some positives to take away from this year.

    First and foremost, it appears as if C.J. Spiller might not be a complete draft bust. When Fred Jackson went down, Spiller stepped up in a big way for Buffalo. Sure, it took him a few games, but he has really hit his stride the past few weeks.

    They've also learned that Ryan Fitzpatrick is still worth the big contract that Buffalo gave him. While his numbers have declined as the season progressed, he still showed he has what it takes to be a starter in this league.

    Things are definitely looking good for the Bills in the future.

    Final Record Projection: 7-9

    After starting 5-2, a 7-9 final record might seem like a disappointment, but it was still a solid year for Buffalo. In Week 17, the Bills take on the New England Patriots, and they'll lose.

20. Chicago Bears

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    Did anyone realize how important Jay Cutler and Matt Forte were to this team at the start of the season?

    I know that they were valuable, but without them, the Chicago Bears have completely crumbled into nothing. Not even their vaunted defense can help the struggles of their offense.

    They have now lost five straight games and are currently starting Josh McCown at quarterback. Considering that he hasn't played the position in a game since 2007, I'd say that the Bears are in some serious trouble.

    Final Record Projection: 7-9

    The Bears' losing streak will be six games after they get beat by the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17. I know the Vikings are bad, but McCown is even worse.

19. Tennessee Titans

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    It's been an up-and-down season for the Tennessee Titans this year. Whenever they put together a nice little winning streak, they follow it up with a little losing streak.

    They are still better than anyone expected, especially when they originally signed Matt Hasselbeck. I do believe that it's time for Tennessee to hand the ball over to Jake Locker, but no one in the Titans' management seems to agree.

    Locker has the skills to be a very good, winning quarterback, as has been evidenced by the short amount of time he has been on the field.

    With Locker, Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt, the Titans will be good on offense for the next few years.

    Final Record Projection: 9-7

    The Titans get the Houston Texans in Week 17 who are beginning to fade at the end of the season. Since Houston is already guaranteed a playoff spot, look for them to come out slow and the Titans to win their season finale.

18. Denver Broncos

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    You know what is funny? When Tim Tebow was winning football games, we couldn't hear enough about how incredible he is. However, now that he is losing, we don't hear anything about it.

    We don't hear how bad he is or how his losses are just flukes. It's like he has completely disappeared from the media's radar. That doesn't happen to any other high-profile player in the league, and it is a little crazy.

    The Denver Broncos still have a chance to make the playoffs, but it will take their defense, and not Tebow, for them to make it.

    Final Record Projection: 8-8

    The Kansas City Chiefs have played the spoiler this year, and they'll do it again to the Broncos in Week 17 as they keep them out of the playoffs.

17. Oakland Raiders

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    A few weeks ago it looked like the Oakland Raiders were once again going to fall short of making the playoffs. After three straight losses, they pulled out a big win against Kansas City last week.

    This team is going to rely on the legs of Michael Bush in the final weeks, and in the playoffs if they make them. He's been stellar for them so far, but he isn't used to getting this many carries, and it has yet to be seen if he can hold up to the punishment of the playoffs.

    If he can, the Raiders could be a dangerous team in the playoffs, if they make them. With Carson Palmer at quarterback and a solid defense, I wouldn't want to be the team that needs to face them in the first round.

    Final Record Projection: 9-7

    Against the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders will be victorious and make the playoffs.

16. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Sure, it hasn't been a dream season for the Philadelphia Eagles, but you have to like how they have persevered throughout the season.

    After sitting in the cellar for most of the season, Philadelphia has won three straight games and now has a chance to finish the season with a .500 record. While they can't make the playoffs this year, their momentum to finish this season will likely carry over to 2012 where they will be a favorite team to do some damage.

    Their problem throughout the course of the year had been gelling all their talent, and they've finally done that. This is going to be scary, scary team next year.

    Final Record Projection: 8-8

    With the Washington Redskins as their Week 17 opponent, they Eagles will finish at .500 and save Andy Reid's job once again.

15. New York Jets

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    I'm no GM or anything, but don't you think it's time for the New York Jets to move on from Mark Sanchez?

    Even though he is statistically having his best season of his career, he still has a quarterback rating under 80 and is still completing under 60 percent of his passes. He's got great weapons surrounding him and that is all he can do.

    People may say that he wins games, but the truth is that the defense is what wins the games for New York. When their defense plays poorly, the Jets don't stand a chance.

    Final Record Projection: 9-7

    New York is lucky that they get the Miami Dolphins in Week 17. If they were playing even a middle-of-the-pack team, they would probably lose and miss the playoffs.

14. Seattle Seahawks

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    If Marshawn Lynch doesn't get some MVP votes this year, it would be a travesty. I know he hasn't been as good as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady, but without Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks would likely be without a win this year.

    Lynch has been absolutely dominant this year with nearly no help surrounding him. Try and name one other offensive playmaker that Seattle has on their roster. Doug Baldwin? Tarvaris Jackson?

    He won't win the MVP award, but Lynch definitely deserves some consideration. If Seattle can add some more weapons to their offense, they could be a surprising team next year.

    Final Record Projection: 8-8

    Seattle was so close to making a late run at the playoffs, but their loss last week to the San Francisco 49ers has put them out. They'll avenge their loss to San Francisco by beating the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.

13. Carolina Panthers

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    How good are the Carolina Panthers going to be next year? They could very well have a similar season as the Detroit Lions had this year.

    Even though they aren't in the playoffs this year, no one expected them to get anywhere near six wins this season. Cam Newton surpassed all expectations in he first week of the season, and he is only going to get better.

    If they can put together a nice draft in April, they should be a very dangerous and exciting team next year.

    Final Record Projection: 6-10

    It's unfortunate that the Panthers play the New Orleans Saints in Week 17 because I really think they would beat any other team in the league.

12. Houston Texans

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    After being ranked in the top 10 for the past few weeks, the Houston Texans drop down in the power rankings, thanks to back-to-back losses against teams they should have beat.

    What the smart move for Houston is now is to rest their starters in Week 17 and get as healthy as possible for the playoffs. I still think T.J. Yates can win football games, but having Andre Johnson back and completely healthy would be a huge boost.

    If the offense for Houston can match their defense's intensity, this team could win a few games come playoff time.

    Final Record Projection: 10-6

    Since I'm predicting that Houston will rest their starters, I have to predict that they'll lose to the Tennessee Titans because of that.

11. New York Giants

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    It all comes down to the final game of the season for the New York Giants. Win and they're in or lose and they stay home.

    Whatever the outcome of their Week 17 game is (just hold on, I'll get there in a second), you have to like what Eli Manning has done this year. Everyone doubted his abilities, and he just brought everything he had this year to prove that he is one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

    With the emergence of Victor Cruz, Manning's weapons will be even more abundant in 2012.

    Final Record Projection: 8-8

    Okay, here it is: The Giants will lose to the Dallas Cowboys to miss out on the playoffs. Even though they are at home, I still think they'll lose. They haven't been good in clutch situations this year.

10. Dallas Cowboys

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    Their current situation is probably the worst situation the Dallas Cowboys could be in. We all know how clutch Tony Romo is, and if you don't, he isn't very clutch.

    However, something tells me that this game is going to be different for the Cowboys. Even with Romo's bum hand, I still think they are going to prove everyone wrong.

    The biggest reasons are DeMarcus Ware and Dallas' receiving corps. They will both dominate against the New York Giants.

    Final Record Projection: 9-7

    Yes, the Cowboys will beat the New York Giants in the final game for all the marbles. It will come down to the final drive and Romo will lead his team to victory.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

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    For the first time this year, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in the top 10 of the power rankings. I've been around and around all year long on how good the Bengals actually are, and I've finally decided that they are actually one of the better teams in the league.

    And you know what? They are also one of the youngest teams in the league. With a quality rookie quarterback, the top rookie wide receiver and other young players on both sides of the ball, the Bengals are only going to get better.

    It would be absolutely huge for this team to get into the playoffs, as they would gain valuable experience to set them up for success next year.

    Final Record Projection: 9-7

    The Bengals get the Baltimore Ravens at home in Week 17, and this could very well be the best game on the entire schedule. Both teams have something to play for, and both teams are going to beat the heck out of each other.

8. Atlanta Falcons

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    There is a different feel to the Atlanta Falcons this year than there was last year at this time of the season. Sure, their record isn't as good, but I do believe this is a better team than last year.

    They are just as good defensively, and their offense is much better than it was last year. Julio Jones is a big reason why their offense has taken such a giant leap forward, but it also has to do with Matt Ryan becoming a truly elite quarterback.

    We also can't forget about Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez, as they are still two of the best at their position. This team is built for the playoffs, so don't expect them to get blown out in their first playoff game like they did last year.

    Final Record Projection: 10-6

    After losing to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, the Falcons will finish of the season with a victory over the helpless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

7. Detroit Lions

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    It's been a long time since the Detroit Lions have made the playoffs, and now that they are officially in, they are looking to do some serious damage and make a deep run.

    It all starts with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and there isn't there a better young quarterback-receiver duo in the entire league. When these two are on the top of their games, the Lions are nearly unbeatable.

    If I was another playoff team, Detroit is a team that I would hate to see on my schedule.

    Final Record Projection: 11-5

    Since the Green Bay Packers have already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Lions should be able to steamroll over them.

6. Baltimore Ravens

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    The biggest issue I have with the Baltimore Ravens is that they have a difficult time winning on the road.

    All four of their losses this year have come on the road, and they haven't even come against really good teams. They play sloppy football, and always seem to forget to give the ball to Ray Rice.

    With it highly unlikely that the Ravens will get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, I don't see them being a real threat once they get on the road.

    Final Record Projection: 12-4

    Baltimore travels to play the Cincinnati Bengals in their final game, and even though I just said the Ravens are terrible on the road, I still think they will take down Cincinnati.

    They are too experienced to lose an important game to such a young team.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers won last week with Charlie Batch as their starting quarterback shows just how talented this team is.

    Their hitting their stride at the perfect time. Their defense has been dominant, and once Ben Roethlisberger returns at full strength, this will be a difficult team to beat in the playoffs.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh once again punches its ticket to the Super Bowl.

    Final Record Projection: 12-4

    Pittsburgh gets the Cleveland Browns as their final opponent, which means they are guaranteed to win.

4. San Francisco 49ers

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    In years past, defenses have won championships. If this was five or six years ago, the San Francisco 49ers would likely be the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

    However, now that the NFL has turned into an offense-driven league, the 49ers could have some trouble in the playoffs. The one thing that the 49ers have going for them is the fact that they have a solid ground game that can milk time off the clock.

    This isn't a team that is going to put 40 points on the board, but with their defense, they might only need to score 14 to win their game against you.

    Final Record Projection: 13-3

    The 49ers have the easiest last game in the entire league, as they face the St. Louis Rams in their final game. Even if the 49ers make the crazy decision to rest their starters, they will still beat St. Louis.

3. New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots have won seven straight games, and until last week's close win against the Miami Dolphins, they were absolutely dominating teams.

    Their offense is one of the most lethal in the league. Even though they have the worst statistical defense in the NFL, they are still beating teams by a large margin.

    Tom Brady is having one of the better seasons in his career, but he'll likely finish no higher than third in MVP voting this year.

    The Patriots are getting hot at the right time.

    Final Record Projection: 13-3

    The Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills earlier in the season, but it won't happen again.

2. New Orleans Saints

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    No team is as good offensively as the New Orleans Saints this year.

    Drew Brees is having a record-breaking year. He's got weapons galore with the likes of Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston and Lance Moore at his beck and call.

    They've won seven straight games after their victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. They are the hottest team in football right now, and seem poised to make a deep playoff run.

    Final Record Projection: 13-3

    The Carolina Panthers have been really good recently, but not good enough to beat New Orleans.

1. Green Bay Packers

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    After their first loss of the season to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers rebounded in a huge way with an impressive performance against the Chicago Bears.

    Aaron Rodgers locked up the MVP award with five touchdowns. He continues to have one of the better seasons in NFL history.

    One giant area of concern for the Packers has to be their defense, and specifically their inability to stop the run. If teams can run the ball and keep Green Bay's offense off the field, they will have a good chance to beat them.

    Final Record Projection: 14-2

    Since the Packers already have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they will rest their starters against the Detroit Lions and lose.