Week Fourteen Rankings

nfl

Another week draws to a close in the National Football League and so far the Dallas Cowboys are the only team to have clinched a guaranteed playoff berth thanks to a Washington Redskins loss on top of a Dallas win. As if that weren’t exciting enough, the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots are both vying for the number one seed in the AFC. That’s something I’m not sure I ever thought I’d be writing, honestly not in this decade at least. Meanwhile the week also saw some blowouts and close victories and losses. Let’s get right down to business.

Winners:

  1. Dallas Cowboys- There’s so much to say about this team and yet at the same time I’m not entirely sure what else could be said about them that hasn’t already been. They’re far from guaranteed an overdue Super Bowl win, however the hype surrounding them is definitely justified this season. They’ve got rookie talent, star veterans, and an amazing offensive line. Look for them to continue to be a threat. They’re number one for a reason. +/- 11-1 *Playoffs
  2. New England Patriots- These guys have been the most consistent team in the league for nearly two decades by this point. The Brady era has been a magical time for New England and they’ve deserved all the success along the way, even if the road has been paved with scandal occasionally as well. I’m saddened to hear that Gronk’s year has ended for good and that the Madden Curse has struck yet again, but I know the team is in a solid place as well. The real question is who’s better, the Pats or that crew from Oakland? +/- 10-2
  3. Oakland Raiders- Things started off a little rough against a tough Bills team with something to prove on Sunday but the Raiders prevailed nonetheless and such has been the story all season. While they were behind well into the third quarter, they came back to win the game by double digits and showed that they can play just as well when it’s a catch-up situation and down to the wire. Derek Carr continues his career season and the Raiders look the best I’ve seen in…well pretty much ever. I’m really eager to see how these guys do once they make it into the playoffs. +/- 10-2
  4. Seattle Seahawks- As surprising as it may have been that the Seahawks dropped a game to the Buccaneers and were stifled on offense almost completely, it’s not surprising that they bounced back in time to trounce a team that hounded them throughout the 2015-2016 season and into the playoffs. In Richard Sherman’s own words, Carolina seems to have gotten the dose of karma they deserved as the Seahawks and Thomas Rawls went on to soundly beat them 40-7. +1 8-3-1
  5. Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs are back in the top five again after a truly spectacular performance in Atlanta against the Falcons. Eric Berry made his return home a tour de force and put several numbers on the board including a clutch pick-two that ended up putting the Chiefs back up over the Falcons and squashing Matt Ryan’s comeback attempt. Alex Smith played surprisingly well and exceeded expectations and the defense put on quite a show- and don’t forget Travis Kelce. +1 9-3
  6. Atlanta Falcons- Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Taylor Gabriel put on quite a show yet again Sunday and they weren’t the only guys playing well. The Falcons had some troubles, but in the end they lost a close one only because Eric Berry is a beast and can take away passes from pretty much anybody in this league. A two point conversion that could’ve put them up three on the Chiefs led to a pick-two return and sealed the deal. The playoff race has grown tighter in the NFC South but this team is still incredibly dangerous. -2 7-5
  7. Denver Broncos- The Broncos are pretty lucky this week that the teams below them didn’t do much to scamper up the ranks and surpass them. Paxton Lynch played well enough to fill in for an injured Trevor Siemian but I still can’t believe they let Blake Bortles and the Jaguars get away with the game they did. The final score ended up being 20-10 in favor of the Broncos, but it very well could’ve and should’ve been about double that amount for the Denver defense. +/- 8-4
  8. Detroit Lions- Detroit continues their move up the ranks after stagnating at the number ten spot for a little while. I came into the Detroit-New Orleans game under the influence that Drew Brees would be winning the QB matchup with Matt Stafford who has played excellently this year and boy was I wrong. Not only did Stafford’s team win and defense oftentimes annihilate Brees and take advantages of his reads, but Stafford and the Lions led from the get-go and it may have been the first game where they didn’t trail in the fourth quarter. Also, enter: Golden Tate. +2 8-4
  9. Washington Redskins- The Skins were just one of many teams in the general 10-20 ranked area that lost their game this week, however they came close and I think they deserve to keep their spot for now because it was an eight point game and they very nearly tied it with some fourth quarter magic on the behalf of Kirk Cousins, resident everyman. Arizona may not be headed to the playoffs but that’s not to say they aren’t a dangerous unit and they showed that by stopping the Skins and their impressive offense. +/- 6-5-1
  10. New York Giants- I kind of saw this one coming, especially considering the fact that the Giants have moved pretty slowly on offense this year and that the Steelers always seem to come up big when it counts. I didn’t however, expect it to be such a one-sided affair until pretty late in the second half when the Giants finally put points on the board at all. They were dominated in the first half even if the score didn’t entirely reflect it, and the beating continued in the second half which ultimately lead to them losing by double digits. -2 8-4

Fringe Groups:

  1. Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens really exploded in a good way this week and brought Miami’s hot streak to an abrupt and unceremonious halt to boot. They’re leapfrogging severa teams on this list because they may have finally realized their potential on both offense and defense, and heck even on special teams. They had a pretty fair day and dominated the Dolphins for the entirety of the one-sided match which certainly can’t hurt their confidence going into crunch time in the final quarter of the season while they’re neck in neck with Pittsburgh for division leadership as well. +5 7-5
  2. Minnesota Vikings- Man, what a close game. I’ll bet a lot of us were wondering if Minnesota was going to pull some semblance of their early season antics from out of the cobwebs and put the Cowboys to the test, but they never really managed to push them hard enough even though the final score may suggest otherwise. It was a pretty well-paced game and could’ve been the Vikings’ to keep if they’d ever really pressed their advantages. -1 6-6
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers definitely came to play and I think someone finally told them that they’re battling both themselves and the Ravens for dominance in their division which may or may not have lit a special kind of fire under their tails. They’re not only still neck in neck record wise with the Ravens, but both seek to essentially win out the rest of their schedule in order to secure definite playoff slots as well. It’s time to see if Big Ben’s still got the magic. +1 7-5
  4. Buffalo Bills- After being essentially neck in neck all through the third quarter with the Raiders, the Bills were subsequently held to zero points as the Raiders went on to score a clutch fifteen unanswered in the fourth quarter. I know that must be both frustrating and demoralizing for Rex Ryan’s team, especially considering they know how much talent and potential they have despite injury issues and some flaws on offense and defense. Shady consistently plays well when healthy and the team can hold their own against almost anybody, but sometimes even that’s not enough. Hopefully they can break out for an above .500 season this year. -1 6-6
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Don’t look now, but the Bucs are making their case for NFC South title holders. If the Falcons stumble again, it very well could be theirs to gain. The defense came up big when it came to shutting down Philip Rivers and his deep passes, picking him off on occasion and punishing him in the pocket as well. On an even more positive note, Winston’s Bucs have now won more games this year than they did throughout the entire last season. +2 7-5
  6. Miami Dolphins- Oh, you all almost had me convinced that you were for real. And while the Dolphins’ record remains largely intact despite playing in a close race for second in their division, they aren’t as great as it may suggest. The Ravens who are also currently 7-5 put them to utter shame and only gave up a measly 6 points in garbage time at the end of the game. The Fins might need to rethink their approach if they want to have a shot at keeping their current potential wildcard status and making it past the opening round of the playoffs, much less into the playoffs. -4 7-5
  7. Green Bay Packers- Is there a little spark of the old Aaron Rodgers magic shining through all that snow? The QB hasn’t been the main problem for Green Bay this year, although I wish the same could be said for their Sunday opponent. Brock Osweiler is definitely struggling and the weather isn’t his only issue. The Pack Attack finally got a semblance of a rushing attack going and there were some nice spirals and snow angels all around as well. +4 6-6
  8. New Orleans Saints- I’d drop the Saints a little lower if I could justify it, but sadly nobody else picked up enough of the slack to make it past them that hasn’t already surpassed this team. They’re now even further behind in their bid for NFC South supremacy although that could just as easily change. They tried to hang tough with Detroit and they got knocked down, picked off, and kicked around. Drew Brees didn’t have his best day, but then it wasn’t entirely his fault either. -3 5-7
  9. Indianapolis Colts- Sure, sure it was the New York Jets and it was Monday Night Football. But that doesn’t discount the fact that the Colts put up one of the highest scoring games of the week with one of the largest margins of victory we’ve seen all season to boot. They scored a whopping 40+ points on a Jets team that struggled to score a mere 10. It was Andrew Luck versus Andrew Luck and he couldn’t be held back. Let’s not forget Dwayne Allen’s three first half touchdowns either. +5 6-6
  10. Philadelphia Eagles- Not a good day to be an Eagles fan. They’ve had a tough schedule and tough year but this game should not have been so one-sided against them and they knew it from the moment it all went wrong. At one point Cincinnati held a 29-0 lead and the Eagles didn’t even manage to score until two late game touchdowns in the second half. This team continues to struggle with discipline and injuries and those two factors worked against them as the Bengals D shut them down over and over again. -2 5-7

Taking the L:

  1. Arizona Cardinals- Somehow, remarkably the Cardinals are still technically “in the game” even though I don’t foresee much of a playoff future in my crystal ball. Stranger things have happened, but rarely. They showed some signs of life, as did Carson Palmer who finally hit the 300 yards and 3 touchdowns mark in their resounding win over the Washington Redskins. Not only did they quell a potential wildcard contender’s jets for a little bit, but they got some morale back which is just as important. +4 5-6-1
  2. Houston Texans- They’re now on virtually the same level playing field as both the Titans and Colts, so honestly the AFC South is fair game for anybody that isn’t named Jacksonville. I would say all jokes aside, but then I wouldn’t be able to talk about the Texans’ level of play lately either. I don’t know who they had to pay off to get the initial record they did but they’re falling apart at the seams now. -2 6-6
  3. Tennessee Titans- Sure, these guys fell off the wagon a little bit this week and are moving down thanks to the almighty powers of the Bye-Week, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and they’re not a bad team despite being in this lower tier. In fact, now that the playing field is even more level between their divisional competition, now’s their best chance yet to seal the deal and literally run over their enemies. I hope we get to see some more Marcus Mariota aerial action as well. -1 6-6
  4. Carolina Panthers- Golly, what a beating this team took. It almost reminded me of how one-sided the NFC Championship game was last season but it may have been even worse despite having a similar score. This is not the same team we saw last year and if that wasn’t apparent prior to their 40-7 trouncing at the hands of a vengeful Seattle, then I don’t know how it could be made any clearer. When the first play of the game is an unfortunate bobble and pick, you’re either unlucky or the Cleveland Browns. Either way, not good karma. -5 4-8
  5. Cincinnati Bengals- Finally, a heartbeat and a pulse again. AJ Green going down earlier couldn’t have been a good thing at all for this team but this victory is exactly what they needed even if the season is pretty much shot to pieces at this point. I was shocked at how one-sided the matchup was against Philly because if the Bungles can play that well, they should’ve been able to win several other games that they dropped. +1 4-7-1
  6. San Diego Chargers- One bad game won’t necessarily tank your season, but when you’re already on the verge of a tanked season and you’re fighting for ground in the most dominant of all AFC divisions, you’ve got little room to give up. Philip Rivers didn’t play his best or brightest and his mistakes may have contributed to Tampa Bay’s win as much as TB’s defense did. Rivers often carries his team and so once more, his off day was their off day too. -3 5-7
  7. Chicago Bears- Sorry Chicago, I know you all won by a nice 20 points and I really considered moving you up a spot for that, but there’s no way you’re a heartier team than the Chargers even though they were laid low this week. Kap got benched in favor of Blaine for whatever reason (he sucked too), so it’s no shock that the Bears destroyed the competition this time around. Let’s all hope we see more of that Minnesota/Chicago level action again too. +/- 3-9
  8. Jacksonville Jaguars- I’ll give the Jags this bump in part because they put up some semblance of a fight and in part because the Rams scored the same points but lost by a higher margin (slightly), the Jets were totally obliterated by the Colts, and the Jags deserve one final hurrah for the lost season. That’s basically all I’ve got to say for them at this rate. Blake Bortles is stinking it up and such potential in young players is being wasted as a result too. +2 2-10 *Eliminated
  9. Los Angeles Rams- Somehow Jeff Fisher is getting an extension despite losing more games than some coaches have ever even won or been around long enough to win. And unsurprisingly the Rams also made history by helping Tom Brady to achieve his 201st career win, surpassing Peyton Manning’s career 200 wins. Fun fact because the Pats deserve to be talked about more than the Rams do at the moment and probably always: Brady won 201 in 264 games and it took Manning 293 to hit 200. +/- 4-8
  10. New York Jets- I think I stumbled onto the set of Independence Day 3 because the level of utter destruction I saw out their Monday night could only have stemmed from an alien invasion force or Andrew Luck’s arm. Or perhaps Ryan Fitzpatrick’s darkest dreams… -2 3-9 *Eliminated

Losers’ Circle:

  1. San Fransisco 49ers- Seriously? +/- 1-11 *Eliminated
  2. Cleveland Browns- No. +/- 0-12 *Eliminated
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