Thursday, 27 December 2012

NFL Power Rankings - Week 17

1 (1) Denver Broncos (12-3) - The Denver Broncos are the NFL's form team heading into the playoffs.  They have won their last ten games in a row and a win on Sunday at home to the Kansas City Chiefs would guarantee them a first round bye in the playoffs.  It could get even better for the Broncos if the Texans lose to the Indianapolis Colts.  If that happens the AFC playoffs will go through Denver and Peyton Manning would have home field advantage right to the Superbowl.  Manning threw for 339 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception.  Demaryius Thomas had another good game, catching 9 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.  Knowshon Moreno led the rushers with 78 yards on the ground.  

2 (4) Green Bay Packers (11-4) - The Packers put in another good display to get their ninth win in their last ten games.  This Packers team is hot and the only thing that could stop them in the playoffs is the offensive line.  Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year but they are still getting the results.  If they protect him, the Packers WILL win the Superbowl.  They remind me a lot of last years New York Giants team.  The Giants had some issues and struggled a lot with injuries.  This Packers team have their own issues and have also suffered with injuries.  The Giants got their injured players back around this time and the Packers seem to be getting their full roster back now.  The 49ers defeat in Seattle means the Packers now hold the second seed in the NFC and if they win next week they will get a bye in the first round of the playoffs.  Aaron Rodgers threw for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns.  James Jones led the receivers with 7 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.  Ryan Grant had a good day on the ground, rushing for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns.      

3 (5) Atlanta Falcons (13-2) -
The Falcons secured the number one seed in the NFC playoffs with a comfortable win over the Detroit Lions.  The Falcons got off to a quick start and led 21-6 at half-time.  The Lions got back to within five points early in the fourth quarter but the Falcons responded with a touchdown and a field goal to secure the win.  The road to the Superbowl for NFC teams will go through Atlanta and in their current form, the Falcons won't be easy to beat.  They have the best record in the NFL and are 7-0 at home this year so it will take a good team to beat them.  Matt Ryan was excellent, throwing for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Roddy White was the star receiver and he caught 8 passes for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns.

4 (7) Seattle Seahawks (10-5) -
Seattle look very, very good.  They seem to have hit top form at the perfect time and are averaging fifty points a game in the last three weeks.  Their defense is excellent and the offense are picking up big yards on the ground.  Rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson has really grew into the role as the season has progressed and it took me a while to come round to him but he certainly looks like the real deal.  As a neutral I am looking forward to seeing the Seahawks in the playoffs but it is just a pity that they won't host a game.  The atmosphere on Sunday night looked intense and I would have loved to see how pumped up that crowd could get for a home playoff game.  Russell Wilson threw for 171 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception.  Doug Baldwin was the leading receiver, catching 4 passes for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Marshawn Lynch led the running game, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown.

5 (6) New England Patriots (11-4) -
The Patriots picked up the win on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars but they made hard work of it.  The Jags took a 10-0 lead but the Patriots came back and won by a score of 23-16.  The Patriots currently hold the third seed in the AFC but depending on this weeks results, they could finish anywhere in the top four.  At their best, the Patriots will be a threat to anyone in the playoffs but they will have to improve on Sunday's display.  Tom Brady threw for 267 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  Wes Welker was the leading receiver, catching 10 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.  Stevan Ridley also had a decent game, rushing for 84 yards.

6 (8) Baltimore Ravens (10-5) -
The Baltimore Ravens saved their best performance of the season until Sunday and they picked up a blowout win over the New York Giants.  I haven't been slow to criticise the Ravens this season so it's only fair that I give them credit when they deserve it.  They completely dominated the Giants and fully deserved the win.  The defense done well and held the Giants to 186 yards.  As good as the defense was, the offense was even better.  They picked up 533 yards to run out 33-14 winners.  Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith had good games.  Boldin caught 7 passes for 93 yards.  Smith caught 5 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.  The Ravens also had two men who had one hundred yard rushing days.  Bernard Pierce ran for 123 yards and Ray Rice ran for 107 yards. 

7 (3) Houston Texans (12-3) -
The Texans lost at home to the Minnesota Vikings to leave them needing a win next week over the Indianapolis Colts to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.  Houston never got going on offense and the Vikings restricted them to just 187 yards.  The Texans have hit a bad run of form at the worst possible time.  At 12-3 they have a very good record but their level of performance has dropped considerably and I can't see them beating Denver or New England in the postseason.  Matt Schaub threw for 178 yards and his leading receiver was Andre Johnson who caught 7 passes for 97 yards.  The running game was restricted to 2.1 yards per carry but more worrying for Houston will be the news that Arian Foster had to leave the game with an irregular heartbeat.

8 (9) Indianapolis Colts (10-5) -
The Indianapolis Colts sealed their playoff place with a road win over the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Colts had to work for the win and credit to the Chiefs, they didn't look like a team who had give up on the season.  The big difference was turnovers.  The Colts defense forced three turnovers which won them the game.  The Colts will have to improve on their run defense as they gave up over 350 yards on the ground in this game.  Luckily for the Colts, two of the Chiefs turnovers came in the red zone or else the final outcome could have been very different.  Andrew Luck threw for 205 yards and a touchdown.  Reggie Wayne led the receivers again with 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. 

9 (2) San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) -
The 49ers got beat up on Sunday night in Seattle and ended up losing 42-13.  The 49ers should still win the NFC West as they host the Arizona Cardinals next week and a win would secure the division.  The 49ers will do all they can to win that game as there's no way they want to risk going back to Seattle in the postseason.  I've had plenty to say on the quarterback situation in San Francisco and still believe that Coach Harbaugh got it wrong by benching Alex Smith in favour of Colin Kaepernick.  However, the decision has been made and the only thing crazier than changing the whole identity of your team during the season would be changing it back again a week before the playoffs.  The 49ers will live or die by that decision and I personally believe it will be the latter.  Kaepernick threw for 244 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  The leading receiver was Michael Crabtree who caught 4 passes for 65 yards.

10 (11) Washington Redskins (9-6) -
The Redskins extended their winning run to six in a row with a win over divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles.  A win in their last game against the Dallas Cowboys would secure a playoff place and the Redskins would be NFC East champions.  They have come a long way this year and even as an Eagles fan, I am quite looking forward to seeing Robert Griffin III in the playoffs.  RG3 had a quiet game on Sunday and done most of his work in the pocket.  He ran just twice but completed 16 of his 24 passes for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.  Alfred Morris ran for 91 yards and a touchdown.  Pierre Garcon was the leading receiver and caught 7 passes for 89 yards. 

11 (12) Minnesota Vikings (9-6) -
The Minnesota Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive with an excellent win on the road over the Houston Texans.  The Vikings are now up to 9-6 for the season and a win over the Green Bay Packers would see them secure a wildcard.  It won't be easy for the Vikings as the Packers also need the win to secure a first round bye in the playoffs but they have won their last three games against decent teams to get this far and they will be feeling confident.  I would be happy to see the Vikings make the playoffs as they have beat some good teams this year and the playoffs would be a better place if Adrian Peterson was involved.  Peterson needs another 208 yards to break the single season rushing record.  It will be a big ask but not out of the question.  Christian Ponder threw for 174 yards and a touchdown.  Peterson ran for 86 yards at just 3.4 yards but I'm sure the Vikings will be prioritising their playoff push over Adrian Peterson's record.        

12 (15) Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) -
The Bengals picked up a great win in Pittsburgh to seal their place in the playoffs.  The Bengals have a lot of young talent on their roster and although I can't see them making much of an impression in this year's playoffs, they are definitely a team to look out for in the years to come.  The divisional winners have all been confirmed so the Bengals will have to go on the road in the playoffs and as things stand, they would be playing the New England Patriots.  Playoff games don't get much harder than that but I'm sure Cincinnati would rather be going there than studying film of potential draft picks.  The game was as tight as expected and it was the defenses who came out on top but in the end, Josh Brown kicked the game winning field goal in the dying seconds.  Andy Dalton threw for 278 yards and 2 interceptions.  AJ Green led the receivers as usual with 10 catches for 116 yards.  

13 (14) Chicago Bears (9-6) -
The Chicago Bears kept their playoff hopes alive with a comfortable win over the Cardinals in Arizona.  The Bears need to win and hope the Vikings slip up against the Packers to secure a wildcard shot.  The Bears won't get it easy though as they have to go to Detroit to face a Lions side with a point to prove.  On their day, the Lions can beat anyone and the Bears offense will have to show up if they are to outscore a Lions offense that will be throwing everything to Calvin Johnson.  Jay Cutler threw for 146 yards and a touchdown.  Brandon Marshall was the leading receiver, catching 6 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.  Matt Forte was very good on the ground, running for 88 yards and a touchdown from 12 carries. 

14 (17) New Orleans Saints (7-8) - The New Orleans Saints picked up a good win in Dallas over the playoff chasing Cowboys to improve to 7-8 for the season.  Unfortunately for the Saints they results didn't go their way and they are officially eliminated from the playoff race.  The Saints looked to have the game won when they led by fourteen with less than four minutes to play but the Cowboys scored two quick touchdowns to send the game to overtime.  Credit to the Saints, their defense held firm in overtime and they were able to drive into Cowboy territory.  They had a stroke of luck when Marques Colston fumbled the ball.  The loose ball rolled down the field toward the end zone and Jimmy Graham recovered it at the 2 to set up the game winning field goal.  Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Colston and Darren Sproles both had 100 yard receiving games.  Colston caught 10 passes for 153 yards and Sproles caught 7 passes for 104 yards.    

15 (13) Dallas Cowboys (8-7) -
The Cowboys lost to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday but their destiny is still in their own hands.  If the Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins they will win the NFC East and enter the playoffs.  After a 3-5 start, the Cowboys have won five of their last seven games to give themselves a chance of reaching the post season.  Dez Bryant has been outstanding in those seven games and has ten touchdowns.  He is also averaging 115 receiving yards per game in that seven game stretch.  Bryant had his best game in the run on Sunday, catching 9 passes for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Tony Romo also played very well, throwing for 416 yards and 4 touchdowns but it wasn't enough as the Saints sealed the win in overtime. 

16 (10) New York Giants (8-7) - The New York Giants have had a nightmare in recent weeks, losing five of their last seven games.   The Giants looked to have the NFC East in the bag at 6-2 but they now require a minor miracle to get a playoff place.  The Giants would need four results to go their way and such an outcome is a very long shot.  The game always looked like the Ravens were going to win if and the Giants can have no excuses, they were simply outplayed.  The Giants offense was restricted to just 186 yards and the Ravens managed 533 yards of offense, so the scoreline was a fair reflection on the game. Eli Manning threw for 150 yards and a touchdown.  Ahmed Bradshaw led the rushers with just 39 yards.  The Giants done well on the ground, picking up 4.8 yards per carry but they had to put the ball in Eli Manning's hands as they fell behind early.

17 (18) St Louis Rams (7-7-1) -
The Rams picked up a good win in Tampa Bay to reach 7-7-1 for the season but other results did not go their way and they are now officially eliminated from the playoffs.  The Rams have improved a lot from last season's 2-14 finish and if they continue to improve, they will find themselves back in the playoffs within the next year or two.  The Rams started the year well and have finished well, winning four of their last five.  They weren't a million miles from being in the playoffs this year but a mid season run of five games without a win killed off their chances.  Sam Bradford threw for 196 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.  Lance Kendricks caught 4 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.  Steven Jackson ran for 81 yards and a touchdown.

18 (16) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) -
The Steelers lost their do or die clash against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and they have been eliminated from playoff contention.  The Steelers were looking good after four successive wins that took them to 6-3 for the season.  In the next game, Ben Roethlisberger got injured and the Steelers have only won once in their six games since.  The Steelers host the Cleveland Browns next week so they have a good chance of getting back to .500 for the season.  In Sunday's game, Roethlisberger threw for 220 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the receivers with 5 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.  The Steelers coaching staff got the running game wrong.  They kept giving the ball to Jonathan Dwyer who ran for 39 yards from 14 carries.  Rashard Mendenhall was the hot rusher and picked up 50 yards from 11 carries.  In such a tight game, these things can be the difference between winning and losing.     

19 (20) Miami Dolphins (7-8) - The Miami Dolphins picked up their seventh win of the season at home to the Buffalo Bills.  At 7-8 the Dolphins are out of the playoffs but they can take a lot of positives from this season and they aren't too far away from being a playoff team.  They travel to Foxboro next week to take on the New England Patriots so it will be very difficult to finish with a .500 record.  The Dolphins won't be too worried though and will be looking at how they can take that next step to make the playoffs.  Ryan Tannehill threw for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Reggie Bush was the best player for the Dolphins, picking up 107 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns.

20 (23) San Diego Chargers (6-9) -
The Chargers beat the Jets in New York to get to 6-9 for the season.  If the Chargers had performed as well at home as they did on the road,  then they might have made made the playoffs.  They have gone 4-4 on the road and as things stand they are 2-5 at home.  San Diego used to be a hard place to go but it certainly hasn't been this year.  Philip Rivers threw for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Danario Alexander caught 3 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.  The running game was restricted to just 2.9 yards per carry.   

21 (22) Carolina Panthers (6-9) - The Panthers won again on Sunday to take their strong finish to the season to three wins in a row and four wins in their last five.  Carolina have found their form too late in the season and they have already been eliminated from the playoffs.  It's nice to finish the season well but the off season is too long in the NFL to carry momentum into next season.  The Panthers do have some very talented players on their roster though and if they can add a few more players for next year, they could be a playoff contender.  Cam Newton threw for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  Newton also led the rushers, running for 60 yards and a touchdown.  Greg Olsen led the receivers with 6 catches for 53 yards. 

22 (19) New York Jets (6-9) -
The New York Jets lost on Sunday to drop to 6-9 for the year.  The Jets matched the Chargers in every area but once again their quarterback cost them the game.  Greg McElroy threw an interception and also fumbled for another turnover.  He was also sacked eleven times which the offensive line has to accept some responsibility for but the quarterback has to get rid of the ball quicker too.  I've made my feelings clear about this Jets team.  They have three quarterbacks at the franchise and the best one they have has been overlooked all year.  McElroy threw for 185 yards an an interception.  Clyde Gates led the receivers with 3 catches for 65 yards. 

23 (21) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) -
Tampa Bay lost at home to the St Louis Rams on Sunday to drop to 6-9 for the season.  It has been a strange year for the Bucs.  They got off to a poor start and were 2-4 but won four games in a row to reach 6-4 and at that stage they looked like genuine playoff contenders.  Unfortunately for Tampa Bay they had another dramatic turnaround and they have now lost five in a row to leave themselves way out of the playoff picture.  Josh Freeman had a mixed game.  He threw for 372 yards and a touchdown but he also threw 4 interceptions which played a big part in the defeat.  Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson both had 100 yard receiving days.  Jackson caught 7 passes for 108 yards and Williams caught 7 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.  The Rams done a good job on Doug Martin, restricting him to 62 yards at 3.4 yards per carry.     

24 (24) Cleveland Browns (5-10) -
The Browns became the latest team in the NFL to be overcome by the juggernaut, better known as the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos have now won ten in a row so the Browns shouldn't beat themselves up too much.  Cleveland are 5-10 for the season and their playoff hopes have long since gone.  I have spoke in recent weeks about the direction this Browns team are going in and I still believe that within a few seasons and with another strong draft, there is enough talent to be a playoff team.  I am a big fan of Trent Richardson and believe he will be a very good running-back in this league in the next few seasons.  On Sunday, he ran for 53 yards from 9 carries. 

25 (25) Detroit Lions (4-11) -
Calvin Johnson broke the record for receiving yards in a season with a huge game on Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons.  Johnson caught eleven passes for 225 yards to set a new mark.  He still has another game to play so by this time next week, the record will have been well and truly smashed.  Unfortunately for Johnson and the Lions, the record is the only positive in what has been a very disappointing season for them.  They have lost seven in a row and in my opinion the franchise needs to figure out what has gone wrong and address it quickly.  They have the best receiver in the NFL and he is being wasted in a team who haven't even been close to the playoffs.  Quarterback, Matthew Stafford, threw for 443 yards and an interception.  The running game was restricted to 3.6 yards per carry but was led by Mikel Leshoure who ran for 46 yards and a touchdown.  

26 (27) Buffalo Bills (5-10) -
The Buffalo Bills picked up another loss to drop to 5-10 for the year.  This time it was the Miami Dolphins who beat them and it was the Bills seventh loss in their last nine games.  The Bills matched the Dolphins in most key areas but they turned the ball over four times and also gave away eleven penalties which cost them 93 yards.  The turnovers were costly and led to two Miami touchdowns and a field goal.  I'm sick of saying it and people are sick of hearing it, but if you do that in the NFL, your going to be adding to your loss column.  Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  CJ Spiller had another good game for the Bills, rushing for 138 yards. 

27 (28) Arizona Cardinals (5-10) -
The Cardinals lost their tenth game in their last eleven games to fall to 5-10 for the season.  After their 4-0 start they looked playoff bound but they never recovered after Kevin Kolb's injury.  Arizona have fallen a long way in recent years and they have never really replaced Kurt Warner at quarterback.  The franchise have an elite receiver in Larry Fitzgerald so it shows just how bad their quarterback situation is.  Fitzgerald is having one of the worst seasons of his career and his numbers are the worst they have been since his rookie year.  Fitzgerald is 29 now and he is wasting his career at a franchise who are unable to get the best out of him.  Arizona need to either sort their quarterback situation or I can see Fitzgerald making a push for a trade to a team who can help him push for a Superbowl ring.  Fitzgerald had one of his best performances of the season on Sunday, catching 8 passes for 111 yards. 

28 (26) Tennessee Titans (5-10) -
The Titans were beat up on Sunday by a rampant Green Bay Packers.  The Titans are 5-10 for the season and they have looked poor.  There's a lot of room for improvement.  Chris Johnson has had another decent year but he is a long way from the running-back who ran for over 2000 yards back in 2009.  We have had a better chance to look at Jake Locker this season and to be honest, I don't think he's the answer.  In his ten games, he has throw ten touchdown passes and eleven interceptions.  His completion percentage for the season is 56.2%, which isn't good enough.  I expect the Titans to have a good look at themselves in the off season and there is definitely a lot they could change.  On Sunday, Locker threw for 140 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions.  The Packers done a good job of shutting down Chris Johnson and restricted him to just 28 yards from 11 carries.

29 (29) Oakland Raiders (4-11) -
The Raiders dropped to 4-11 for the season with a defeat to the Panthers in Carolina.  The Raiders have a lot of work to do in the off season if they want to end their long absence from the playoffs.  I've mentioned it before but I think the Raiders would be wise to trade down in the draft as they have a lot of issues that they need to address.  On Sunday, they had three quarterbacks who made at least one pass.  Matt Leinart got the majority of the snaps but he was poor, throwing for just 115 yards and an interception.  The running game wasn't much better and the Panthers defense restricted the Raiders rushers to just 2.1 yards per carry.
 
30 (30) Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) -
The Eagles lost again on Sunday, this time to the Washington Redskins.  The Eagles are 4-11 for the year and will finish their season with a trip to New York to face the Giants.  The Eagles are playing for nothing more than pride now but they do have a good record against the Giants and will hopefully go there and make the Giants work hard for the win.  The Giants still have a small chance of reaching the playoffs and it looks like Michael Vick will start at quarterback for the Eagles as Nick Foles has a hand injury and Vick will want to show Andy Reid that he made a mistake by sticking with Foles when Vick returned from injury.  Vick has been poor in the last two seasons but he usually saves his best displays for the Giants.  On Sunday, Foles threw for 345 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  Jeremy Maclin led the receivers with 8 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.  LeSean McCoy came back from injury and played well, picking up 122 yards from scrimmage. 

31 (31) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) -
The Jaguars lost on Sunday to go to 2-13 for the season.  They deserve a lot of credit as it would have been easy for them to give up on the season and take one of the top two picks in the 2013 draft but they done their best against one of the best teams in the NFL and fell just short.  The results on Sunday mean that the only way the Jags can get the first pick is if the Chiefs win their last game.  The Chiefs finish with a trip to Denver so it's unlikely that they will win as the Broncos need to win to secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs.  Chad Henne threw for 348 yards, a touchdown and 3 interceptions.  Justin Blackmon was the best receiver, catching 7 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.   

32 (32) Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) -
The Chiefs put in a very good display and lost narrowly to the playoff bound, Indianapolis Colts.  It was the same old story for the Chiefs.  They played very well but once again it was turnovers that cost them.  They turned the ball over three times and two in particular were costly.  The Chiefs were in the red zone and turned the ball over twice.  Mistakes like that are more often than not, the difference between winning and losing in this league.  Brady Quinn threw for 162 yards and 2 interceptions.  Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis both had big days on the ground.  Hillis ran for 101 yards but Charles was the star of the show, rushing for 226 yards and a touchdown. 

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