NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Are the Ravens and Eagles Better Than Patriots?
Time to take a look at the NFL power rankings for Week 16! We had quite the eventful week of football in Week 15, and it featured plenty of top teams getting knocked off by some of the league's lower-ranking members.
Week 15 also presented us with a bit of an issue at the top of the rankings. With four teams who could each make a claim to the top spot, it's tough to figure out just who deserves it.
The consensus pick has been the New England Patriots, on the backs of some impressive wins in recent weeks. But the Pats barely squeaked by the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers this week, while Baltimore and Philly each snagged good wins over good teams.
Did either the Ravens or Eagles do enough to reach the top two of the rankings, much less the top spot? Or will the Patriots and Falcons' run of dominance (they've been no lower than third since Week 10) continue?
Read on to find out!
The Land of the Lost: 32-26
These teams are the bottom of the barrel: the softest, weakest, most feeble teams in the NFL this season.
32 (32). Carolina Panthers: Hey, they won a game! Someone might want to tell John Fox it's too late to get to 8-8, though. And a win over Arizona isn't enough to get you out of the cellar.
31 (30). Denver Broncos: Things are getting ugly in Denver. They can't stop anything defensively and the offense can't find any consistency.
30 (29). Arizona Cardinals: Hey, they won in Week 14. But, they're now officially out of playoff contention, so you can breathe easier.
29 (31). Cincinnati Bengals: Was that a win? It's been so long, Bengals fans had started to forget what those looked like.
28 (26). Washington Redskins: Any time you decide Rex Grossman is your starting quarterback, you deserve a spot in the bottom five.
27 (27). San Francisco 49ers: The good news for Niners fans is that they're still in the NFC West hunt despite their loss Sunday. The bad news for the rest of us is that the Niners could still make the playoffs.
26 (23). Minnesota Vikings: At least they're still playing hard. But this season is over for the Vikes; time to move on, get some help (Ryan Mallett?) in the draft, and hope next season goes better.
Hey, It Could Be Worse: 25-21
These guys aren't quite as bad as the last slide's teams, but they're not exactly playoff material at this point, either.
25 (28). Dallas Cowboys: Sure, the Redskins are one of the biggest messes in football right now. But a win is a win, and the Cowboys have won four of six under Jason Garrett, and the losses were by all of six points combined.
24 (25). Buffalo Bills: Don't look now, but the Bills have won two straight. Looks like they won't be drafting a quarterback.
23 (24). Detroit Lions: Who would have thought all the Lions needed to get going was Drew Stanton and Maurice Morris?
22 (20). Cleveland Browns: Why would you give Peyton Hillis just 14 carries against a Bengals team that gave up 102 yards to him in your last meeting? The offense in Cleveland just can't get it's mojo working.
21 (18). Houston Texans: That defense needs to be addressed this offseason. The Texans crash out of the top 20 because their defense couldn't stop Tennessee's offense, which hasn't been lighting the world on fire of late.
20. Seattle Seahawks
Where They Stood Last Week: 21
Why They Rose: The Seahawks rose largely by default. The fact is, this just isn't a very good football team right now. How they've managed to win six games baffles and astonishes me. Still, they're in the playoff hunt, even if they have no players worth mentioning here.
19. Tennessee Titans
Where They Stood: 22
Why They Rose: That's more like it. The Titans finally snapped into focus in time to knock off the Texans, and steal their spot in the top 20. Chris Johnson looks like he's back and ready to roll, and with Kerry Collins, the passing game is just enough of a threat to keep defenses from stacking 10 in the box.
18. St. Louis Rams
Where They Stood: 17
Why They Fell: The Rams have lost two straight games, but they're still the best team in the NFC West. It might not always be pretty, but Sam Bradford is looking more like an NFL quarterback every week. The defense is solid, and when they get some receivers in the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams could be a really dangerous team.
But for now, they'll have to settle for a playoff berth.
17. Miami Dolphins
Where They Stood: 16.
Why They Fell: When you lose to the Bills, you deserve to take a hit in the rankings. But, in all honesty, the Dolphins are a mediocre team. Nothing flashy, but nothing terrible either. They play close games and don't wow you with anything. So, it's hard to penalize them too much.
16. Oakland Raiders
Where They Stood: 19
Why They Rose: The Raiders keep clawing their way back up the charts, thanks to some strong play from Darren McFadden. They're still alive in the division race, but they can't lose again this season, and need Kansas City to lose out.
Still, given the state of this team over the last five years, that's a massive improvement.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where They Stood: 11
Why They Fell: Two straight losses, including one this week to Detroit, at home, when the Lions hadn't won on the road since 2007, are enough to all but eliminate the Bucs from playoff contention. They're still a good, promising young team, but they're at least a year from the playoffs.
The defense could use some shoring up this offseason.
14. Green Bay Packers
Where They Stood: 9
Why They Fell: Well, that wasn't nearly as bad as we feared it would be. The Pack hung tough with Matt Flynn at quarterback against the Patriots, but his turnovers cost them down the stretch. Green Bay needs to win out to make the playoffs, and hope the Giants stumble again. And until Aaron Rodgers is back at full strength, don't count on Green Bay making a postseason appearance.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
Where They Stood: 10
Why They Fell: Jacksonville finally came back to Earth against Indianapolis, and this seems about right for their talent level. They're in a fight for their playoff lives, and probably can't lose again if they want to keep playing in January.
The Jags have got to draft some wideout help after this season. Maurice Jones-Drew can't do it by himself, and until there's a good receiver in Jacksonville, teams won't fear the pass.
12. New York Jets
Where They Stood: 15
Why They Rose: The Jets eked out a win over the Steelers to get out of their funk. The defense is still playing well, but New York's offense has been a major issue this season. Until it improves, it's hard to take them seriously as contenders.
Still, they're 10-4, and look poised for a playoff berth. But I wouldn't trust them once the postseason gets underway.
11. San Diego Chargers
Where They Stood: 14
Why They Rose: It looks like the annual "Campaign to Save Norv Turner's Job" is back on! The Bolts have won two straight, and are still in the running to win the division, but they can't lose another game if they want to take home the AFC West crown.
The offense is clicking, the defense is looking dominant and the Chargers are a team on the rise.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
Where They Stood: 13
Why They Rose: Thank goodness Matt Cassel was back this week, or the Chiefs could have crashed out of the top 15. Fortunately, their starting quarterback gave them a strong performance, as did running back Jamaal Charles, and the Chiefs held on to the top spot in the AFC West.
Their defense has some issues, and they struggle away from Arrowhead Stadium, but the Chiefs are a solid team who will be a serious contender in 2011.
9. New York Giants
Where They Stood: 7
Why They Fell: Talk about a heartbreaker. The Giants defense collapsed late against the Eagles and DeSean Jackson smoked their punt coverage team to win the game. This is still a top-10 team in terms of talent, but they're developing a nasty habit of struggling to beat good teams. That needs to change if New York wants to make any noise in the playoffs.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Where they Stood: 12
Why They Rose: Here come the Colts. You knew Peyton Manning wasn't going down without a fight, and the Colts are playing their best football of the year right now. Even the offensive line is blocking the way they should, while the defense is doing a good job of bending ,but not breaking as often.
They're in the driver's seat in the AFC South, and could still be dangerous in the playoffs.
7. New Orleans Saints
Where They Stood: 4
Why They Fell: Sunday's loss means the Saints can more or less kiss a division title goodbye. They're not mathematically eliminated yet, but there's no way the Falcons lose to the Panthers in Week 17.
Even so, the Saints are a good team, with an improving defense and an offense capable of putting monster numbers up every week. If they get on a tear in the playoffs, watch out.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Where They Stood: 3
Why They Fell: This team cannot close out the division. It seems like every lead they get evaporates after a tough loss to a good team. The defense is still as formidable as ever, but the offense needs to find some consistency come playoff time.
The Steelers should still win the division, but Baltimore is right there should they stumble again in the next two weeks.
5. Chicago Bears
Where They Stood: 8
Why They Rose: A fantastic bounce-back effort from the Bears, who wrapped up the NFC North with the win on Monday night. The offense doesn't always bring it's best stuff, but the defense is more than dominant enough to make up for it.
Are they a top-three team? No. But they're still pretty darned good, nonetheless.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Where They Stood: 5
Why They Rose: That was an impressive comeback against a good Giants team. The Eagles are showing a toughness and resiliency not seen in Philly in recent seasons, and Michael Vick is looking like his old self again.
Now, if only they could sort that defense out, they'd be set to go.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Where They Stood: 6
Why They Rose: The Ravens are suddenly back in a tie atop the AFC North, and scored a major victory over a good Saints team in Week 15. The offense is clicking, the defense is doing enough to keep the Ravens close and they look like a real contender come playoff time.
Sure, the cornerbacks are a mess, and the Ravens are vulnerable over the top. But with their offensive capabilities, they can keep up with whatever opponents throw at them. They're not unbeatable, but they'll play you tough.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Where They Stood: 2
Why They Didn't Move: The Falcons have yet to give us any reason to drop them from the second position. They've won eight straight, the offense is balanced and potent and the run defense can be stifling.
Sure, they're vulnerable to the pass, and they don't have a great pass rush, but that hasn't stopped them from ripping off eight wins in a row. So why should it be cause to drop them in the rankings?
1. New England Patriots
Where They Stood: 1
Why They Didn't Move: For the third straight week, the Patriots are the best team in football. They had their share of issues against the Packers, but battled back to take home a victory. They've won six straight and 11 of 12. The offense is firing at maximum capacity, thanks to quarterback Tom Brady.
The defense has been improving, in spite of Sunday's lapse against the Packers, and it doesn't look like anyone can hang with New England right now.
So, for another week, the Pats are the top team in the NFL. They've beaten good teams, won on the road, and hung tough in close games. Can anyone take them out down the stretch?