December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Three teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco and the New York Giants. New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota have comfortable leads in their division, but will be fighting for first-round byes and home-field advantage over the coming weeks. There is a lot of football left to be played, and a lot can change. Here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 13.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-11)
Last week: 32 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers
There is no surprise here as the Browns are dead last in the NFL. Cleveland continues to lose games and is only five losses away from going 0-16 just one season after going 1-15. The Browns’ remaining schedule is pretty tough, and 0-16 seems like a certainty.
It is hard to find any bright spot for this franchise, but going 1-31 over the course of two seasons is likely as bad as it can get. The only way to go is up, and that is the only good thing to look forward to if you’re a Browns fan.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-10)
Last week 31 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Chicago
The 49ers played tough against Seattle, but are still preparing for a top three pick in next year’s draft. San Francisco could mess that up this week by traveling to Chicago to take on the Bears. This is a winnable game for the 49ers, but should they try to win it?
It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Garoppolo finally starts after going two for two for 18 yards and a touchdown. Or the 49ers may just tank this year and roll with him as a backup.
30. New York Giants (2-9)
(Photo from http://www.sportingnews.com)
Last week: 30 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Oakland
New York has officially been eliminated from the playoffs after many expected them to be a playoff team. It has been a lost season to say the least, and they must determine which direction they need to go for the future.
Eli Manning shouldn’t be going through a rebuild this late into his career. The defense is loaded with talent, and if they can retool the offensive line, then they may be closer to being more competitive than they have been in this season.
29. Denver Broncos (3-8)
Last week: 28 (-1)
Next game: away vs. Miami
Denver has had a surprising downfall this season, but what can you expect with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as your quarterbacks? Yes, Peyton Manning wasn’t the same during their Super Bowl run, but was still 10 times better than what they have now and was still vital to their success. Denver needs to finish the rest of the season without earning another win so they can draft a new signal caller to lead them into the future.
28. Chicago Bears (3-8)
Last week: 25 (-3)
Next game: home vs. San Francisco
Chicago was beaten so badly they had to complain about the dancing the Eagles were doing. John Fox has done a pretty good job building this team, and more specifically the defense.
However, their lack of competitive spirit this past week is concerning. If the Bears look this bad at home against San Francisco, then it should be time to fire Fox and bring in an offensive mind that can make sure the decision to trade up for Mitch Trubisky doesn’t haunt this franchise for the next 10 years.
27. Indianapolis Colts (3-8)
Last week: 29 (+2)
Next game: away vs. Jacksonville
Indianapolis is still extremely competitive despite their treacherous record. Two weeks ago, they fought the Steelers in a 20-17 loss.
This past Sunday, they fought another playoff contender, the Tennessee Titans, to a 20-16 loss. The defense has improved as of late and is giving up just 18 points per game over the last three games.
Jacoby Brissett is playing the role of game manager well on the offensive side of the ball. If the defense can play like this when Andrew Luck returns, along with having a high draft pick, it will go a long way in helping them reach the postseason next year. For now, the Colts are going to enjoy playing spoiler for the rest of this season.
26. Miami Dolphins (4-7)
Last week: 27 (+1)
Next game: home vs. Denver
Miami got after Tom Brady and hit him numerous times, but it wasn’t enough. The Dolphins fell 35-17 as Brady threw for four touchdowns against them.
Miami is stuck in the middle with issues all over their offense. The only bright spot is Jarvis Landry, who puts up consistent numbers despite never having an elite quarterback to get him the ball. The defense is also underperforming, giving up 36.7 points per game over their last three.
They might be able to get a win this week against the Broncos, but in the end, it won’t mean anything but a lower draft pick.
25. New York Jets (4-7)
Last week: 26 (+1)
Next game: home vs. Kansas City
The Jets are still competing in games, but won’t make the playoffs and won’t get a chance to have a top three pick either. They are stuck in the middle and in mediocrity.
New York fell to the Panthers and now they get to face the free-falling Kansas City Chiefs. A win is possible for the Jets this week, but winning this game won’t accomplish much.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
Last week: 19 (-5)
Next game: away vs. Green Bay
Tampa Bay was undefeated with Ryan Fitzpatrick until this past week when they lost to the Falcons. Jameis Winston is close to being healthy, but should the Bucs put him back in the lineup? The Buccaneers are a long shot to make the playoffs, which is why they should protect their franchise quarterback for the long term. They should ride with Fitzpatrick the rest of the season because it is over.
23. Houston Texans (4-7)
Last week: 20 (-3)
Next game: away vs. Tennessee
Tom Savage should not be in the NFL. When I think of Tom Savage and the comparison to other professional athletes that looked completely lost in the pros, I think of Smush Parker of the Los Angeles Lakers back in the mid-2000s. Savage can’t get the job done, and the fact that he has a job and Colin Kaepernick doesn’t is just blasphemous.
Either way, the Texans travel to Tennessee this week with a chance to play spoiler to a divisional foe.
22. Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
Last week: 24 (+2)
Next game: home vs. Los Angeles Rams
Who is this Blaine Gabbert that the Cardinals have found? Gabbert has thrown for 498 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in limited action this season, but head coach Bruce Arians thinks he is the future at the quarterback position after Carson Palmer retires.
That is pretty bold after all the issues he had in Jacksonville. Let’s see how he does against the Rams this week now that he has the support behind him.
21. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
Last week: 22 (+1)
Next game: home vs. Detroit
One of the most unexplainable things of the NFL season is how the Ravens sit at 6-5. This team has no offense whatsoever, but have still won six games.They are 18th in scoring, 11th in rushing and 32nd in passing. Baltimore’s defense has done the majority of the work, holding teams to just 17 points per game, which is the second best mark in the NFL.
Baltimore does not look like a playoff team and will more than likely miss the playoffs. If they do find a way to hold Detroit under 20 points and pull out a win, then maybe I’ll begin to change my mind and hop on the Ravens’ playoff bandwagon.
20. Green Bay Packers (5-6)
Last week: 23 (+3)
Next game: home vs. Tampa Bay
It has to be disheartening for the Packers to get a career game from Brett Hundley and still lose. After the performance he put on against the Steelers, it is clear to see that no matter how well Hundley plays, the Packers are doomed. At 5-6 they aren’t completely out of the playoff race, but climbing back into it will take a miracle considering the level of competition they have remaining.
In their final five games, Green Bay must face the Panthers, Vikings and Lions. The chances of them winning all these games are very low, and the Packers will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
Last week: 21 (+2)
Next game: home vs. Pittsburgh
The Bengals looked dead in the water at 0-3, but have managed to go 5-3 since then. Their defense is still playing at a high level, ranking 10th in scoring defense. Cincinnati gives up a lot of yards, but keeping people off the scoreboard is what really matters. The offense finally got some help in the ground game last week as Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 114 yards.
If they can keep this up against the Steelers, it will keep the Killer B’s off the field and possibly lead to an upset. This upset would put the Bengals back in the thick of the Wild Card hunt.
18. Oakland Raiders (5-6)
(Photo from http://www.businessinsider.com)
Last week: 17 (-1)
Next game: home vs. New York Giants
The Raiders were able to get a win, but barely won against a bad Denver team. On a somewhat positive note, the Raiders seem to have the fighting spirit a team needs to beat adversity.
How do I know that they have this fighting spirit? Well, they are literally getting into fights. Michael Crabtree will be suspended one game for his role in the fight, and that really hurts Oakland as Amari Cooper went down with a concussion.
Oakland has an easy opponent this week, but will really need to pick it up to save their season.
17. Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
Last week: 12 (-5)
Next game: home vs. Washington
There was nothing to be thankful for in Dallas as the Cowboys got completely railed by Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Thanksgiving. Dak Prescott and the rest of the Cowboys offense is struggling without Ezekiel Elliott.
If the Cowboys don’t right the ship this week, their season is likely over. To turn their season around, they need Dak to channel some of the greatness he displayed last season. But that may be asking too much.
16. Washington Redskins (5-6)
Last week: 15 (-1)
Next game: away vs. Dallas
Washington’s season has been an up and down roller coaster. One week they look like a legitimate contender and the next they are blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads.
Washington is not out of the Wild Card race as their final five games are against the Cowboys, Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos and Giants. If the Redskins get hot at the right time, they could make a run in the playoffs. It all starts this week with their biggest rival.
15. Detroit Lions (6-5)
Last week: 14 (-1)
Next game: away vs. Baltimore
Detroit fought valiantly against the Vikings, but they were outmatched by a better team. In a recent press conference, head coach Jim Caldwell said to not count them out, and he was spot on. This team is sitting on the outside looking in, but at 6-5, they are all but out of it.
Their schedule is extremely favorable too. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 23-32. All five of their games are winnable, and they can even lose one and finish 10-6. 10-6 should get them into the playoffs.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)
Last week: 9 (-5)
Next game: away vs. New York Jets
Two years ago, it was the Falcons that started out 5-0 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Last year, it was the Vikings who started out 5-0 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
It seems like the team to continue this trend will be the Chiefs. They started this season out 5-0 and looked completely unstoppable. They even beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since then, they have gone 1-5, and the wheels have fallen off. Andy Reid can’t avoid the constant barrage of questions involving Patrick Mahomes, but he has shot down any idea of the rookie replacing Alex Smith.
Kansas City needs to find their explosiveness to turn the ship around before it is too late. The Jets are the perfect opponent for that.
13. Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Last week: 18 (+5)
Next game: home vs. New England
After a failed experiment to bring in rookie Nathan Peterman, the Bills wised up and started Tyrod Taylor again, and it resulted in a win over the Chiefs. The win put Buffalo right back into the thick of the Wild Card race in the AFC.
Buffalo should have never benched Taylor because the loss to the Chargers could hurt in the long run. Now the Bills must face the hated Patriots this week, and it will likely result in a loss and further make the playoff race even more jam-packed.
12. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
Last week: 11 (-1)
Next game: home vs. Houston
Tennessee won this week, but didn’t look great against the Colts. It was their first ever win in Lucas Oil Stadium, but nevertheless, it should have come much easier.
The Titans sit comfortably in a playoff spot, but if they can’t get Marcus Mariota playing at the level he was at last year, then they will have a short stint in the playoffs. Tennessee also needs to make sure they stay committed to the run in order to succeed. The Titans will be facing a banged up Texans team, but all divisional games are difficult.
11. Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
Last week: 13 (+2)
Next game: home vs. Philadelphia
Seattle found a way to beat the 49ers, which wasn’t hard for them to do. For the first time in his career, Russell Wilson has to carry the team on his back. The offensive line is weak and the defense had been decimated with injuries.
Wilson has been up to the task thus far, throwing for 3,029 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He has also added three rushing touchdowns.
The Eagles will be their toughest test this season, and winning it will vault them right in the conversation of teams to beat in the NFC.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
Last week: 7 (-3)
Next game: home vs. Indianapolis
This week was a perfect example of why some are so skeptical of the Jaguars. They lost a game in which they should have won because Blake Bortles threw a late interception. The only way this team can succeed is if they run the ball over 30 times a game and play legendary defense. They are capable of this and should pick up another win against the Colts thanks to that amazing defense.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)
Last week: 16 (+7)
Next game: home vs. Cleveland
At 5-6, some may see the Chargers at nine and lose their mind, but they are one of the top 10 teams in the NFL regardless of what their record says.
In Week 1, the Chargers had a potential game-tying field goal blocked. In Week 2, Younghoe Koo missed a field goal that would have won them a game against the Dolphins. Their other close losses include a two-point loss to Philadelphia, an eight-point loss to the Patriots and a three-point overtime loss to the Jaguars.
Thanks to the decline of the Chiefs, the Chargers can still win the division. At 5-6, they can also earn a Wild Card berth. The Chargers could very well end up in the playoffs because they have won five of their last seven.
This week they get the winless Browns for a shot to get to .500. Do not sleep on the Chargers as their defense has them streaking.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
Last week: 10 (+2)
Next game: home vs. Minnesota
Atlanta can thank Julio Jones for their win against the Buccaneers. Jones had his third career game of 250 or more receiving yards. This week, getting 100 yards will be tough as he will see Xavier Rhodes. If the Falcons win this game, it will prove to the rest of the league that they are back in the thick of this NFC race. If they lose, then they will fall closer to missing the playoffs.
7. Carolina Panthers (8-3)
(Photo Credit by Getty Images/Abbie Parr)
Last week: 8 (+1)
Next game: away vs. New Orleans
Carolina just keeps racking up wins, and nobody is talking about them. Their most impressive accomplishment of the season nobody seems to talk about either. They beat New England in Foxborough back in Week 4. People would rather remember their loss to the Bears though it seems.
Cam Newton seems to get trashed more than he gets praised, but at the end of the day, he wins games. Newton has led the Panthers to a 29-14 record in his last three seasons.
Carolina has a chance to beat New Orleans and take over first place in the NFC South this week. It is going to be tough to do on the road. The Panthers just keep on pounding, and they shouldn’t be overlooked.
6. New Orleans Saints (8-3)
Last week: 5 (-1)
Next game: home vs. Carolina
New Orleans is not helping their case for any tiebreakers when it comes to first-round byes. They have lost to the Vikings and Rams within the conference. Their win earlier in the season against the Panthers has them in first in the division, but a loss to the Panthers this upcoming week will change that.
The Saints can’t allow the injuries to derail them. New Orleans does have the pleasure of playing at home this week, and it could be the difference maker.
5. Los Angeles Rams (8-3)
Last week: 6 (+1)
Next game: away vs. Arizona
Los Angeles responded nicely after a loss in Minnesota. The Rams bounced back to beat a popular and streaking Saints team. Los Angeles did it with defense by holding the Saints to just 20 points, which is nine points less than their season average. They were able to do so well because they kept the ball away from the Saints by holding the ball for over 35 minutes.
Going forward, the Rams will be looking to lock up the division, but need to hold off the Seahawks who are right on their tail.
4. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
Last week: 4 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Atlanta
The Minnesota Vikings ate the Lions up on the Thanksgiving to get to 9-2. Their defense is one of, if not the best in the NFL. Their defensive front is stout and talented. Defensive end Danielle Hunter has six sacks and a forced fumble while his counterpart Everson Griffen leads the NFL with 12 sacks.
The Vikings also rank second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at just 75.5 yards per game. Their linebackers are fast and athletic enough to play both the run and the pass. The secondary is led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, who are both Pro Bowlers. There is no weakness on this defense, which makes them hard to beat.
With all that said, it is the offense that helps this team really win games. They run the ball well, and it opens up everything for Case Keenum, who is slinging the ball to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The true success comes from the offensive line, which has paved the way for the sixth-ranked rushing attack and only given up 12 sacks in 11 games. Minnesota is a team nobody wants to play come January.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)
Last week: 3 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Cincinnati
The Steelers got the job done, but it wasn’t pretty against the Packers. A defense that had been great all season let Brett Hundley have a career game. Hundley threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh had to edge it out with a 53-yard game-winning field goal by Chris Boswell. Pittsburgh will need to iron out the kinks before the playoffs start to avoid an early exit.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
Last week: 2 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Seattle
Philly continues to roll, but won’t be No. 1 in these rankings until they get some quality wins. Beating Chicago isn’t a quality win. Nine of their 10 wins have come against teams below .500. Their only impressive win has come against the Carolina Panthers.
This week, they have a chance to build their resume by traveling to Seattle. A win on the road in Seattle would show that the Eagles are truly the team to beat in the NFC.
1. New England Patriots (9-2)
Last week: 1 (no change)
Next game: away vs. Buffalo
It may sound boring, or like a broken record, but the Patriots are the best team in the NFL. That shouldn’t even be a debate.
Eagles fans won’t like this, but the truth is the Patriots are experienced and have the greatest coach and quarterback of all time. Oh, and by the way, they have a defense that is playing at a very high level, allowing just 20 points per game this season.
At the end of the year, the Patriots will be in the AFC Championship game at the very least and most likely the Super Bowl.
Featured image from nj.com
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