NFL Power Rankings: Who’s Heating up for a Stretch Run?

Brook Ward (Flickr album: Sports from my Perspective)[]

Wow! It’s been so long since I’ve provided the crucial service of subjectively ranking every NFL team based on how I currently feel about them. Things have changed so much since then; the old rankings might as well be talking about the 1994 season. So, just in time for the playoff push, we’re back with new rankings, hoping to anger every fan base.

I really wanted to rile up Cowboys fans, but ultimately, since this is a judgement on how teams are playing right now, I couldn’t snub big D. You’ll find them rightfully at number one. But while I may not have Cowboys fans complaining, I’m sure the rest of the fan bases can tell me why I’m incorrect in my quick, largely satirical assessments of their teams.

NFL Power Rankings

1. Dallas Cowboys (8-1)

Ugh, fine Cowboys! You can be first. Enjoy it.

The fact is, all the teams in contention for this top spot have some glaring weaknesses. Dallas’ defense lacks any push up front: in fact the biggest strength of their D last weekend was that it allowed Pittsburgh to score too quickly.

Despite that, Dallas reigns supreme, because nobody is better to watch right now than Ezekiel Elliott playing behind that dominant offensive line.

2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)

A Doug Baldwin hat trick and a clutch Seattle win over a great team: the official sign the Seahawks second-half surge is here. Russell Wilson is looking mobile enough to mask some of the team’s well-documented blocking woes and Kam Chancellor makes their defense a different kind of beast.

3. New England Patriots (7-2)

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels did Pete Carroll a solid, proving that play-calling from the one-yard line is harder than you’d think. The Pats really should bring back Mike Vrabel for their goal-line packages. And while they’re at it, he might as well rush the QB too; it’s not like anyone else is getting the job done.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

The Chiefs are a true professional football team. They don’t make excuses, despite having the fifth-most cap money on injured reserve. They don’t make mistakes, with just one turnover in their last five games. They just get results. I don’t mean “results” like the results of Andy Reid’s blood pressure test after their win in Carolina, which must’ve been awfully close to 180; I mean “results” like a hungry Marcus Peters surrounded by babies with Hallowe’en candy.

How Reid coaches the risk-taking corner, I’ll never know.

5. Oakland Raiders (7-2)

A home game that’s really on the road is welcome news for this year’s Raiders, who are still undefeated away from the whatever-it’s-called-iseum.

6. New York Giants (6-3)

Careful, Giants! If you keep reeling off wins, you won’t be enormous underdogs come playoff time. Better drop one of the next two games (Chicago and Cleveland) to throw everyone off your scent.

7. Denver Broncos (7-3)

Dating back to last season, no team has won more close games with less help from its quarterback than the Broncos. True innovators in “How to overcome an incompetent offense,” Denver’s luck probably won’t carry them to a division title, but they’ll be a scary playoff opponent for any team.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5)

This is a ranking of where I think every team currently stands, and despite their record, the Steelers are one of the ten best teams in the NFL. They gave the Cowboys their best challenge in weeks, and now that this offense is back to being healthy, Big Ben and company can move the ball on anyone. The defense has issues, but does anyone doubt this team will go on a run and win the AFC North?

9. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

I’m not shocked that Atlanta lost in Philadelphia, but I am shocked that Julio Jones dropped a crucial fourth-down ball. The All-World receiver better scrape the butter off his hands, because it looks like the Panthers aren’t quite ready to go away yet.

10. Washington (5-3-1)

Success in Washington is like that fad from “the Game” from a while back. Basically, if you think about it, you lose. Kirk Cousins and company are at their best when they’re sneaking up on teams.

11. Detroit Lions (5-4)

The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season. The Browns’ upper management may want to take note as they prepare for a lengthy rebuild; constant losing has an effect. It’s clear that, after years of abysmal football in Detroit, Matt Stafford is only truly comfortable when his team is losing.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)

Wentz isn’t the savior anymore. He’s still very good for a rookie, but the “savior” title has to go to Jim Schwartz. His defense has takeaways in every game this season, and the pressure they put on opposing QBs with just four rushers is incredible.

13. Miami Dolphins (5-4)

Keith Allison (Flickr)

So is Adam Gase really a defensive guru, too? While the offense has been getting love thanks to Jay Ajayi’s outburst, the defense is averaging two takeaways and limiting opponents to 318 yards per game over this four-game win-streak. Climbing to seventh in defensive DVOA, the Phins might actually be balanced enough to register double-digit wins for the first time since 2008. That means their record will be good enough to complain about the winner of the AFC South making the playoffs, while they sit at home because the AFC West took all the Wild Card spots.

14. Baltimore Ravens (5-4)

Their defense has been impressive, but do they have to start entertaining the notion that Joe Flacco is on his way out? Sure, he’s coming back from a torn ACL, which is likely hampering his ability, but it shouldn’t have an effect on his decision-making. On top of choosing to throw into triple coverage, Flacco is also making questionable furniture choices.

15. Tennessee Titans (5-5)

The Titans are rounding into fine form, with Marcus Mariota looking like the real deal, and DeMarco Murray once again reaping the benefit of a great offensive line. This team could make a charge for the division title, mostly because three more wins might be enough.

16. Houston Texans (6-3)

The record doesn’t match the results for the Houston Texans. Despite being three games above .500, Bill O’Brien’s squad has a -27 point differential and ranks 30th in DVOA.

17. Buffalo Bills (4-5)

I’m curious how the Bills are going to respond to that crushing loss in Seattle. This felt like a team that could make a second-half push, but games like that can sink a season.

18. San Diego Chargers (4-6)

Rivers has gotten tons of praise over the years for essentially winning games on his own, so he should get plenty of jeers for the Miami loss. That was his fault, and his alone.

19. Carolina Panthers (4-6)

When a team is struggling like the Panthers, often stories of off-field conflict will dominate headlines. It’s just weird that the latest one circulating is that Steve Smith and Cam Newton “bumped heads” before the wide receiver was released in 2014. It must’ve been one hell of a bump; two years later, Newton still can’t wear regular hats.

20. Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1)

This season on All or Nothing: Carson Palmer has all of the turnovers, while Tyrann Mathieu has done virtually nothing. I really can’t wait for that. Although if anyone could make the Cards’ Week 7 tie with the Seahawks enjoyable, it’d be the silky-smooth narrations of Jon Hamm.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1)

This Bengals offense misses Hue Jackson so much that they’re stealing his plays. The first is from the Browns’ Week 9 loss to Dallas.

And this is from Cincy’s Monday night loss to New York.

It’s like looking in a mirror. Jon Gruden spent a lot of time praising the Bengals’ ridiculous “Star Wars formation,” but if they’re running the same thing in Cleveland, how good can it really be?

22. Green Bay Packers (4-5)

The cheese has been left on the counter for too long, and now it has begun to stink. The Packers aren’t doomed, by any means, but this season has highlighted the difficulty of only building through the draft. Their depth has been tested this season, particularly on defense. And while Green Bay has added some decent players over the years, the D only has one true game-breaker. When Clay Matthews is out of the lineup, the Packers are a two-month old cheddar: just not very sharp.

I’m not even going to wander into the “is Aaron Rodgers done?” conversation, since he’ll probably throw for five touchdowns this weekend.

23. New Orleans Saints (4-6)

Never retire, Drew Brees! Nobody makes 7-9 football more fun.

On a side note, the Saints may need to start practicing how to cover blocked field goals, because not getting them blocked clearly isn’t an option.

24. Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

Take a hint Minnesota: the football gods do not want you to do well this year. Jake Long wasn’t even good, and still his injury is a devastating blow to your team. Sam Bradford was brought in to manage games, but with no semblance of a run game or pass protection, now he’s being asked to make magic. And Bradford can’t be a magician; magicians wear gloves.

25. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Week 10 was probably the worst time for the Colts to have a bye week. The Week 9 win over Green Bay at Lambeau could’ve been such a confidence boost, but now after seeing the Titans wax the Pack, Indy must be feeling like Barney when he found out his first time wasn’t actually legendary.

26. Los Angeles Rams (4-5)

After scoring just 29 points in their last three games, the Rams finally decided it was time to turn to Jared Goff. With all the speculation that Goff was unprepared to run an NFL offense and is bound to be a bust, L.A. has already picked out the shovel they plan to bury the rookie with.

I’m kidding, but only slightly. The odds are against Goff looking good out of the gate, playing behind PFF’s 26th-ranked offensive line, throwing to the likes of Kenny Britt, and partnered with a ground game averaging 82.6 yards per game.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)

Welcome back, Jameis Winston! Who knew you were suspended twice as long as Tom Brady? Well now that you’re back from your eight-game hiatus, why not see if you can mount a playoff run with a terrible defense and no run game in a wack NFC?

28. New York Jets (3-6)

I’d make a joke here, but I don’t want to sound Petty.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)

Since ownership doesn’t respond to direct calls for action (like Gus Bradley’s firing), perhaps reverse psychology can help a poor ol’ receiver who desperately needs it? Hey Jacksonville, please re-sign Allen Robinson!

30. Chicago Bears (2-7)

I know all the discussion will shift to who the Bears will draft at quarterback, but don’t underestimate how big of a need they have have at safety. Adrian Amos plays so far back from the line, I honestly think the Bears are constantly playing down a man. They’ll be tempted to take Jabrill Peppers early in the 2017 draft; ultimately, they’ll likely grab another fifth-round safety and then be shocked when he’s not a star.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-8)

I wonder what will be higher: rushing yards allowed by the 49ers this season, or fans in attendance for their final home game?

32. Cleveland Browns (0-10)

I’ve already taken plenty of shots at the Browns, I really have nothing more to say.

Tags : best team NFLBroncosChiefsCowboysDolphinsEaglesFalconsGiantsLionsNFL playoff pictureNFL power rankingsPackersPanthersPatriotsRaidersRavensSaintsSeahawksSteelersTexansTitansVikingsWashingtonWeek 10
Henry Mardukas

The author Henry Mardukas