Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 17

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 27, 2016

Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 17

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    I had to see the quarterback my coaching friends up in Oakland were raving about.

    So I flew out to Raiders training camp in the summer of 2014. I watched the kid throw. And I understood what all the fuss was about from the moment I saw a football leave his hands.

    His name? Matt McGloin.

    Derek Carr’s season-ending injury doesn’t have to be the holiday cheer-sapper we all naturally assume. McGloin is not your average QB2; he’s a special talent who could start for three or four other teams in Week 17. That he’s replacing Carr from this point on should give Raider Nation hope that the Super Bowl trophy isn’t out of reach just yet.

    Let me repeat myself: With McGloin at the helm, Oakland’s still in the Super Bowl chase. I know this from the first handful of downfield throws No. 14 made on film; I’m talking downfield howitzers to receivers, not dinky dump-offs to running backs. He’s fearless.

    Speaking of running backs, it won’t all be on McGloin. Latavius Murray and the Silver and Black ball-carrying stable make it easy for a reserve to step in and win. A reserve of McGloin’s talent should thrive.

    All those offensive coaches saw something in McGloin. I do too; the kid’s an above-average backup who’s ready and able to win a few playoff games.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-14

    Last week: 32 (same)

    It’s impossible for me to play the Grinch here.

    Cleveland’s magical drought-breaker felt like a warm cup of cocoa. This roster—the most talent-poor one the NFL has seen in some time—found a way to win in Week 16.

    It did so by going back to basics: running the football and winning the turnover battle. That recipe will serve Hue Jackson well in year two of his rebuild.

    Looking forward: Pittsburgh has the division tied up. Cleveland is riding high after avoiding 0-16. I wonder if…

31. New York Jets

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    Billie Weiss/Getty Images

    Current record: 4-11

    Last week: 29 (-2)

    Like the living room tree after the holidays, it’s time to throw this thing away.

    We all saw a loss to the Patriots coming. But locker room in-fighting? Another Ryan Fitzpatrick appearance? No running game?

    What the Jets have created in their quest for relevancy is an even more irrelevant team. And this version is toxic to the point of no return.

    Looking forward: Bryce Petty could’ve gotten one more game’s worth of film in versus Buffalo. Opportunity missed.

30. Los Angeles Rams

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Current record: 4-11

    Last week: 30 (same)

    Calling Los Angeles’ offense bad would be an insult to bad offenses everywhere.

    Remember: L.A. was facing the poster child for blown assignments in Week 16. But Todd Gurley managed only 67 rushing yards against the 49ers. Jared Goff never mounted a real drive—just two short ones set up by turnovers and a Tavon Austin speed reverse. He completed only 11 passes.

    L.A.’s first season back home has been an unmitigated offensive disaster. It’ll all be over soon.

    Looking forward: Losing to Arizona would secure L.A. a better draft pi…never mind.

29. San Francisco 49ers

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-13

    Last week: 31 (+2)

    San Francisco can’t even lose the right way.

    It had a chance to leapfrog the Browns for the No. 1 overall pick last weekend. Two fingers held high by Chip Kelly at the end of a game-tying drive put everything back in its original place.

    I can’t blame Kelly for rolling Colin Kaepernick out for the win. But I can blame his team for not having enough talent to top any other one besides the Rams. The 49ers' power rankings rise has a ceiling; they’re still a bottom-dweller.

    Looking forward: Seahawks-Niners used to mean something for both teams this time of year. Not anymore.

28. Chicago Bears

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Current record: 3-12

    Last week: 27 (-1)

    Interceptions will be the reason Matt Barkley remains a backup quarterback.

    He threw five of them—two to both Redskins cornerbacks—and spotted the opponent 17 points like that. He’s not good enough to dig Chicago out of a three-score hole.

    Barkley shouldn’t have to be. Jordan Howard amassed 119 yards on 18 carries. He’s the only must-see player on Chicago’s offense; feed him 20-plus carries or get the you-know-what out.

    Looking forward: The next time Chicago comes to Minnesota’s fancy new stadium, it better have a fancy new quarterback.

27. San Diego Chargers

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-10

    Last week: 22 (-5)

    No. 17 uncorked another pick, bringing his total to 19 on the season. When he’s careless with the football, San Diego loses.

    Especially when the run defense—the one hat-hanger in San Diego—crumbles to the ground. This group looks nothing like the unit that rose to top-five status midseason. Robert Griffin III and Isaiah Crowell cut through it like butter.

    Looking forward: Chiefs this week, legal battles after. Here’s hoping this team stays put in one fun football town.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Current record: 3-12

    Last week: 28 (+2)

    Doug Marrone should bottle his own holy water down in Jacksonville.

    The Jags interim coach is nothing short of a miracle worker for what he pulled off this week, namely turning Blake Bortles into an accurate thrower of the football.

    I’m not sure how Bortles shortened his release and improved in accuracy since Gus Bradley’s ouster. I am sure the defense behind Bortles (or whichever quarterback starts for this team) is going to be a force. Jalen Ramsey (pick-six) and Dante Fowler Jr. (pressure after pressure) were game-wreckers.

    Looking forward: Want the job, Marrone? Go beat the Colts—usual superpower of the AFC South—and end this season on a high note.

25. Minnesota Vikings

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-8

    Last week: 23 (-2)

    News flash, Terence Newman.

    You’ve been around football for 20 years or so. Mike Zimmer’s been around it for a lifetime. You and your mutinous cornerback buddies don’t know better than one of the league’s most respected defensive minds.

    And two more things: 1. Zimmer took a chance on you when no one else wanted a 38-year-old corner, and 2. Your ploy didn’t even work. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson (154 yards and two touchdowns) smoked the Vikings secondary.

    Looking forward: After starting 5-0, the Vikings can only play for pride and Philadelphia’s draft position against the Bears. What a bummer.

24. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Corey Perrine/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-9

    Last week: 25 (+1)

    The Eagles put all their chips on black in "Ben McAdoo’s Not Going to Run It" roulette.

    Boy, did they hit the jackpot. The end result—three Eli Manning interceptions—won’t save their season, but it is a confidence-builder.

    Also a confidence-builder: the way Philadelphia’s battle-ravaged secondary contained Odell Beckham Jr. The superstar hauled in 150 yards' worth of catches, but never the 80-yard slant-turned-touchdown he’s known for. That’s a win.

    Looking forward: Beating Dallas would be a big deal for the Wentz Wagon as it rolls into its second season.

23. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-9-1

    Last week: 21 (-2)

    I’ll sing it from the mountaintops if I have to.

    Cincinnati needs a second receiving option. We saw dropped passes, an interception and even worse route trees in Week 16. Sans A.J. Green, a playoff-caliber secondary like Houston’s can shut this team down.

    There were moments I questioned whether Andy Dalton could manage a first down, let alone a touchdown. That has to change as 2017 rings in.

    Looking forward: Marvin Lewis shuts down Green. Ravens shut down Green-less Lewis team. Any questions?

22. Arizona Cardinals

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-8-1

    Last week: 26 (+4)

    Remember the first kid who told you Santa Claus wasn’t real?

    They’re the spirit animal of this Cardinals season. Because in 2016, Bruce Arians’ team has gone out of its way to ruin a good thing for everyone.

    This offense finally found its stride. It’s Christmastime. I look at the result in Week 16—all the long throws to J.J. Nelson and David Johnson, all the early Russell Wilson sacks—as a picture of what could’ve been.

    This team was always talented enough to go into CenturyLink Field and win a football game. It just wasn't consistent enough.

    Looking forward: Larry Fitzgerald. Arians. Carson Palmer. An entire Cardinals era could end in Los Angeles this weekend.

21. Carolina Panthers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-9

    Last week: 19 (-2)

    Here’s another friendly reminder that the 2016 Panthers are not the 2015 Panthers.

    Last year’s defense would’ve bullied Matt Ryan. It would’ve forced a few turnovers one way or another. And more importantly, it would’ve wrapped up to prevent long touchdown runs from ever getting started.

    None of those things happened. Atlanta, not Carolina, looked like the reigning Super Bowl participant. It opened up a 20-3 lead and never looked back.

    Looking forward: Is it the 2017 season yet? Cam Newton and Co. probably just want this Buccaneers game over with.

20. Buffalo Bills

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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-8

    Last week: 18 (-2)

    Rex Ryan’s a purported defensive genius, right?

    Wrong. This Bills defense has regressed under old Rexy’s watch to the point where Tyrod Taylor and Co. have to pick up its slack. And that, my Buffalo-rooting friends, is an issue.

    Case in point: Jay Ajayi’s 57-yard overtime run to set up Buffalo’s eighth loss. It shouldn’t have happened; Ryan's defense had 10 men on the field. This is high school stuff we’re addressing here.

    Looking forward: Ryan gets one last crack at his former employer. Then, it could be back to the assistant ranks.

19. Indianapolis Colts

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-8

    Last week: 17 (-2)

    I’ve accused Indianapolis of flag-football play many a time this NFL season.

    Its on-the-field product in Week 16 only backs me up. When push came to shove, the Colts were pushed and shoved. Chuck Pagano’s team wasn’t physically able to hang with a playoff-bound one like Oakland.

    Andrew Luck and Co. were never as close as the final score suggested. They closed the gap when Derek Carr exited—just in time to give up another big run. Oakland rushed for 210 yards total; team brass should model the Colts' rebuild after last weekend’s opponent.

    Looking forward: One stinker against the Jags can change a lot. Like Pagano’s (tentative) job security.

18. New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-8

    Last week: 24 (+6)

    Sean Payton’s team has the best mojo of any non-playoff club out there.

    Think about it: New Orleans ran roughshod over the Buccaneers two weeks after it fumbled its season away down in Tampa Bay. Big-money acquisition Jairus Byrd (two interceptions) actually played like one. And Mark Ingram (two touchdowns) didn’t lose his cool on the sideline.

    In fact, Ingram was a cool customer to the very end. He bulldozed one or two Bucs on 3rd-and-1 to ice the game. Perhaps that’s a preview of some power-heavy looks to come next fall.

    Looking forward: NOLA can be the ultimate spoiler by knocking Atlanta off—and down the NFC playoff bracket.

17. Tennessee Titans

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-7

    Last week: 13 (-4)

    Tennessee could always lean on its front five to pave its way back to playoff relevancy.

    Until it couldn’t anymore. A healthy and fully pissed-off Jaguars club threw the team’s sole strength back at it with force. The Jags took the "smash" out of coach Mike Mularkey’s "exotic smashmouth"—especially on the right side, where rookie Jack Conklin played his age.

    Blake Bortles found success against the Titans on the other end. That’s a sign of your season’s apocalypse.

    Looking forward: Tennessee nearly pulled off the AFC South upset. But this weekend’s Texans game means nothing.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-7

    Last week: 10 (-6)

    Tampa’s defense giveth, Tampa’s defense taketh away.

    The Buccaneers sparked a midseason run when Mike Smith simplified his defense. But what made it player-friendly also made it predictable; Drew Brees knew where and when to go with the football against Smith’s group all game.

    Jameis Winston was doomed without a balanced run game (or Doug Martin to balance it). He couldn’t play catch-up with Brees all afternoon without throwing up a few risky passes. That about ended it.

    Looking forward: Carolina’s the team of last year. Tampa Bay can prove it's the team of next year.

15. Denver Broncos

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    Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-7

    Last week: 14 (-1)

    It took almost two full seasons to happen.

    But Denver’s defense finally broke down on Christmas night. Mark it in your calendars, because I’m curious if we’ll ever see such a run from this group again.

    Why? Because it's on the field as long as an offense should be. In Gary Kubiak’s predictable scheme, Trevor Siemian leads a three-and-out waiting to happen. There’s no running game. There’s no pass protection, either.

    Any normal defense would’ve crumbled a long time ago. It’s a testament to the talent of 11 guys that they held strong for so long.

    Looking forward: Denver can still ruin Oakland’s AFC West championship hopes. But its own title dreams? Shattered.

14. Baltimore Ravens

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-7

    Last week: 15 (+1)

    Baltimore just posted its most impressive rushing game of the year.

    My question: What took so long?

    Establishing Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West might’ve helped the Ravens stave off elimination longer. Coach John Harbaugh might learn a thing or two from Week 16’s rivalry game, in which Le’Veon Bell reminded everyone what a solid running game can do.

    Instead, we’re left to wonder if the best version of this team refused to let itself exist.

    Looking forward: Cincinnati has the kind of secondary that’ll push wide receiver up general manager Ozzie Newsome’s offseason wish list.

13. Seattle Seahawks

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Current record: 9-5-1

    Last week: 11 (-2)

    Give up the dream that is the 2013 Seahawks season.

    This team is a ghost of that one in both roster health and attitude. Pete Carroll’s team is playoff-bound, but that’ll be about it.

    It’s evident from watching this defense surrender long ball after long ball—two throws to J.J. Nelson and an end-of-game prayer to David Johnson—that the Legion of Boom isn’t the same without its leader. Earl Thomas’ replacements look lost or slow. Both aren’t good.

    Flip the football, and you’ll find more head-scratchers. Where’s the running game? Why did Jimmy Graham take so long to be involved? Who will be Russell Wilson’s deep threat without Tyler Lockett?

    Looking forward: Seattle’s offense will magically come alive in San Francisco. Don’t be fooled.

12. Washington Redskins

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-6-1

    Last week: 20 (+8)

    Give Kirk Cousins an inch of offensive balance and he’ll take a mile.

    Case in point: Week 16’s points-fest in the Windy City. Everyone from Robert Kelley (76 rushing yards) to Chris Thompson (rushing touchdown) to Mack Brown (61-yard touchdown) got involved. So did Cousins, who chipped in two ground scores of his own.

    That opened up everything for Washington in the passing game. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon caught four passes for over 25 yards each in part because Bears safeties had to respect the run.

    Looking forward: Washington’s corners hauled in four interceptions last week. Think they can beat Odell Beckham Jr. and his crew to a few more?

11. Detroit Lions

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Current record: 9-6

    Last week: 9 (-2)

    It’s hard to give a meaningless game your all.

    Just ask the Lions, who fell victim to a little over-the-shoulder staring in the second half of Week 16. They went in a shell once the Cowboys opened up a two-score lead.

    Still, Detroit failed to send a message if its endgame is postseason success. Dallas is the No. 1 seed, but the defensive line could’ve fared much better. Instead, the Lions front parted for so many Ezekiel Elliott mega-runs.

    Looking forward: A season comes down to one game. Detroit hosts Green Bay for all the NFC North marbles.

10. Miami Dolphins

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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Current record: 10-5

    Last week: 16 (+6)

    I knew Matt Moore was one of the more capable NFL backups around.

    But even I underestimated his ability to duplicate Ryan Tannehill’s success. He’s doing that and more for this playoff-bound team.

    The offense is a big-play machine, busting runs with Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. DeVante Parker proved he must command double coverage (and capable tacklers!).

    Plug up a few holes in the run defense and—boom. You have a real pain-in-the-ass playoff team entering the fracas down in South Beach.

    Looking forward: Go right ahead. You try telling Ndamukong Suh this weekend’s game versus New England doesn’t mean anything.

9. Houston Texans

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Current record: 9-6

    Last week: 12 (+3)

    My 10-cent scouting report on Tom Savage?

    He held the ball too long. He was confused by some exotic coverages. In short, he looked like a guy making his first career start.

    That’s far better than his predecessor. It’s a good sign Houston won given Lamar Miller’s absence in the starting lineup. Savage connected with Will Fuller and C.J. Fiedorowicz, too. Both guys will be crucial to a deep Houston playoff run.

    Meanwhile, Jadeveon Clowney continued his tour of NFL backfields. He was joined by fellow sack-master Whitney Mercilus.

    Looking forward: Win or lose, Houston’s endgame against the Titans in Week 17 is to get Savage in a rhythm. Everything else comes after.

8. New York Giants

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Current record: 10-5

    Last week: 4 (-4)

    Take your nose out of that big laminated play card, Ben McAdoo.

    You’ll notice teams like the Eagles are sitting two safeties way back—and sometimes a third safety or cornerback over the middle—to shade Odell Beckham Jr. And you might want to take the gimme eight rushing yards those looks offer up.

    No? You’d rather take 63 pass attempts from Eli Manning? Good luck with that.

    Looking forward: Tom Coughlin sparked the 2007 run by refusing to sit his guys in a "meaningless" Week 17 game. Pupil McAdoo might try a similar approach.

7. Oakland Raiders

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Current record: 12-3

    Last week: 3 (-4)

    It’s unfair that Raiders fans will experience their first postseason without their QB1.

    Here’s a silver lining: Everything else is clicking for this team. For starters, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are turning into quite the quarterback sandwichers. The defensive secondary has held up, too.

    But I’m excited about the run game. Menelik Watson is back at right tackle, and the results are noticeable. Indianapolis couldn’t stop any Raiders ball-carrier, and it’s not just because its defense is bad. It’s because this Raiders line is that good.

    Looking forward: Matt McGloin can make himself a lot of Bay Area fans this January. Step one: Beat the Broncos and seal up a first-round bye.

6. Green Bay Packers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Current record: 9-6

    Last week: 8 (+2)

    Hooh boy.

    As a former quarterback, there’s nothing more awe-inspiring than watching Aaron Rodgers rip a defense apart. It should be accompanied by classical music.

    Unless you’re the Vikings, of course. Then you despise Rodgers for his five (and it should’ve been six) accumulated touchdowns. He’s the hottest player in football right now.

    Two of Green Bay’s defenders aren’t far behind, temperature-wise. Both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are back, and that makes the Packers' pressure package potent.

    Looking forward: Rodgers was right. Green Bay will run the table after the loss to the Redskins if it beats Detroit in Week 17.

5. Atlanta Falcons

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Current record: 10-5

    Last week: 5 (same)

    Atlanta has entrenched itself as a top-five team in my power rankings.

    Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. With a hit-you-from-all-angles passing attack and an underrated defense, the Falcons are as good a bet as any to unseat the Cowboys atop the NFC.

    Let’s talk about that defense for a moment. It has now surrendered under 20 points in four of its last five outings. It even features a premier pass-rusher in Vic Beasley. It just manhandled the reigning NFC champions. Any reason why teams shouldn’t fear these guys?

    Looking forward: Julio Jones could sure use an extra week to heal up. Good thing his team’s in line for a first-round bye if it beats New Orleans.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Current record: 10-5

    Last week: 6 (+2)

    One offensive scheme isn’t enough in Pittsburgh. Better make it two.

    Ben Roethlisberger and Co. operate a ball-control, pound-it-down-your-throat kind of attack. Until a team like the Ravens jumps out to a 10-point lead and takes that plan away.

    Then, the same Steelers can revert back to Version 1.0—spread 'em out, pick 'em apart. Big Ben shredded Baltimore on a five-play drive that should freak out every potential playoff foe.

    Looking forward: Pittsburgh already owns the AFC North. Le’Veon Bell can take a much-needed break against the Browns if he wants one.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Current record: 11-4

    Last week: 7 (+4)

    This might be the best team Andy Reid has ever coached.

    Let that sink in. Reid went to a Super Bowl and oversaw several other top-notch Eagles teams. But this Kansas City roster is more talented from top to bottom. The Chiefs are just as explosive as Donovan McNabb to Terrell Owens, minus the drama. And you can tell they’re having fun (and not just by Dontari Poe touchdown throws).

    Alex Smith toyed with Denver’s championship defense. He just needed to find Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill; both playmakers made sure to find open space and make would-be tacklers look foolish.

    Looking forward: Come for a No. 2-seed clinching opportunity. Stay to see how many touchdowns Poe accounts for.

2. Dallas Cowboys

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Current record: 13-2

    Last week: 2 (same)

    Dallas’ late-season struggles lasted all of about 30 seconds.

    The Cowboys are the clear-cut NFC favorites. It’d take as complete a game as we’ve seen to upend their Super Bowl aspirations this January.

    Dak Prescott is the key once again. He followed up last weekend’s super-accurate performance with—you guessed it—another super-accurate and surgical night against Detroit. It’s hard to out-quarterback Matthew Stafford; Prescott did.

    Then he handed off to Ezekiel Elliott for the usual long score. If Zeke played a full game, Dallas would’ve won by 30 points in Week 16.

    Looking forward: Prescott is a big boy. He’s mature enough to handle a Tony Romo mop-up appearance against the Eagles.

1. New England Patriots

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Current record: 13-2

    Last week: 1 (same)

    I could go on for days about Tom Brady’s dominance.

    But I won’t. Doing so might force a gloss-over of New England’s defense, a dominant group playing its best football right now.

    Consider the last touchdown scored against Bill Belichick’s brainchild took place nine quarters ago. It’s averaging 15.7 points per game—good for the NFL’s top spot if the season ended a game early. It won’t; we’ll get to see the duo of Malcolm Butler and Trey Flowers reprise their roles as the new-era Ty Law and Richard Seymour this weekend.

    Brady continues to be masterful. He doesn’t need to be, though. Belichick might be coaching his best defense since my dad’s Giants days.

    Looking forward: Miami’s about to get a nice "Welcome to the Playoffs" message from its AFC East overlords.

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