WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 17: Seahawks still No. 1 despite loss
|12.24.13 at 8:48 am ET|
The Seahawks stumbled but didn’t fall in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Despite suffering a setback in Week 16, Seattle stands pat because of its overall dominance. The 49ers, Panthers, Broncos and Patriots, who all have secured playoff spots, round out the top five.
As we head into the last week of the season, division titles and playoff spots still are up for grabs. Four teams are fighting for one spot in the AFC: the Chargers (11), Ravens (13), Dolphins (15) and Steelers (17). The NFC is wide open, with three divisions and a wild card spot on the line. The Eagles (12) will look to become the 11th consecutive team in the NFL to finish in last place and then go on to win the division the very next year, and it will take a win over the Cowboys (19) on Sunday to accomplish that feat. Philadelphia’s odds of winning the NFC East improved dramatically on Monday after it was reported that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be sidelined due to a back problem.
The conclusion of the 2013 regular season promises to be a wild one. Be sure to check in next week after all is decided for the playoff edition of the Power Rankings.
1. (1) Seahawks (12-3) – The NFC took notice that the Seahawks are vulnerable in Seattle. They lost at home for the first time in two years. Penalties and a struggling passing attack hurt Pete Carroll‘s team Sunday.
2. (2) 49ers (11-4) — They’ve clinched and now have won five straight. The Niners are the type of seasoned, well-balanced team that is capable of going into Seattle and winning if the situation were to arise.
3. (3) Panthers (11-4) — The Panthers have the tools to reach the Super Bowl. Cam Newton has proven this year that the big moment doesn’t negatively affect him. Carolina’s defense forces turnovers, rushes the passer well and allows the fewest points per game in the league.
4. (4) Broncos (11-3) — Much is being made about the loss of Von Miller, but the Broncos won their first six games this season when the Pro Bowl linebacker was suspended. If Denver doesn’t reach the Super Bowl, it won’t be because Miller is out.
6. (9) Bengals (10-5) — For the first time in franchise history the Bengals have qualified for postseason play three straight years. Andy Dalton has really picked up his game in the month of December. One of his biggest undoings was interceptions; he went into December with 15 picks. He’s thrown just one since.
7. (10) Cardinals (10-5) — If the Cardinals miss the playoffs it will be an injustice to football fans across the NFL. Arizona is one of the best teams in the league, with a staunch defense. However, the Cardinals will need to win and get some help to qualify.
9. (11) Colts (10-5) – Indy is playing well at the right time. The offensive line has been one of the weak links this season, but Andrew Luck has been sacked just twice over the last three games. The Colts defense forced four turnovers Sunday against a Chiefs team that prides itself on protecting the football.
10. (8) Chiefs (11-4) — The Chiefs are a great story and have improved tremendously from last year, but they simply aren’t as good as their record indicates. The only playoff team they have beaten are the Eagles, and that was against a Michael Vick-led team. They still have a lot to prove.
11. (14) Chargers (8-7) — The Chargers probably are the most dangerous team in contention for the final wild card spot in the AFC. The defense is allowing 16 points per game in December.
12. (16) Eagles (9-6) — Nick Foles is 7-2 since becoming the starter in Philadelphia. In that span he’s thrown 22 touchdowns, completed 64 percent of his passes, recorded a 118 QB rating and, most importantly, thrown just two interceptions.
13. (5) Ravens (8-7) — Baltimore’s hopes of defending its championship hinges on Joe Flacco‘s sprained left knee and some luck. The injury clearly affected Flacco’s play against the Patriots, and it’s tough to like the Ravens’ chances after watching him play hurt.
14. (15) Rams (7-8) — The Rams are finishing their season strong, which is indicative of the talent they have. This team clearly is headed in the right direction and will enjoy another top-five draft pick thanks to Washington.
15. (12) Dolphins (8-7) — Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 58 times this season, by far the most in the league. The Dolphins are too one-dimensional on offense to make a run in the playoffs.
16. (13) Bears (8-7) — It’s difficult to be optimistic about the Bears’ chances even if they make the playoffs after watching them get throttled on Sunday night. That once-dominant defense Chicago was known for has diminished into one of the worst in the league. The Bears allowed 17 points per game in 2012; this year they’re allowing over 29.
17. (17) Steelers (7-8) — LeVeon Bell has been the difference-maker on Pittsburgh’s offense since coming off his injury. His presence balances the attack and limits Ben Roethlisberger‘s sacks.
18. (19) Packers (7-7-1) — They’ve got enough injuries to key players to fill a book, but the Packers still have a shot at the NFC North title. Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Clay Matthews are the big names whose status is unknown for Sunday’s divisional showdown against the Bears.
19. (20) Cowboys (8-7) — Nothing ever seems to go right in Dallas. It’s tough to rule out the Cowboys, but without Tony Romo the offense must completely change the way it has played all year. The Cowboys drop back to pass 64 percent of the time, tied for fifth most in the league.
20. (21) Jets (7-8) — The Rex Ryan era is coming to an end, but has poor coaching been the main factor in the Jets’ struggles? It’s hard to imagine any coach heading into New York and getting the defense to play better than it did under Ryan. Plus, he never had much to work with at the quarterback position.
21. (22) Titans (6-9) – Chris Johnson‘s time in Tennessee could be winding down. CJ2K had some amazing seasons with the Titans, but since holding out and eventually signing a new deal in 2011 the running back’s production has gone down. He’s currently averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and is due $8 million next year.
22. (23) Giants (6-9) — Sunday’s win over the Lions says a lot about this team and coaching staff. The game was completely meaningless for the G-Men and it meant everything to Detroit. The Giants haven’t quit on themselves or their coaches, and that’s important when it comes time to make personnel and coaching decisions this offseason.
23. (18) Lions (7-8) – That’s it for Jim Schwartz. There’s absolutely no excuse for the Lions missing the playoffs this year. Detroit holds a 7-16 record in December under Schwartz.
24. (24) Bills (6-9) — Another subpar season in Buffalo, but Bills fans can actually go into the offseason with hope that EJ Manuel could be the franchise quarterback they’ve been searching for. The talented first-round pick had an up-and-down year but has the potential to develop into a winning QB.
26. (27) Buccaneers (4-11) — With a poor offensive line and injuries to many key offensive players, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon showed enough this season to deserve a shot at the starting job next year.
27. (28) Falcons (4-11) — The Falcons can take the crown for most disappointing team of 2013. Yes, the Texans finished the year with a worse record, but Atlanta is the better team, had a healthy Matt Ryan and was seconds away from reaching the Super Bowl last season.
28. (26) Browns (4-11) — Six seasons have gone by since the Browns last won more than five games. Cleveland fans are rightfully frustrated with the lack of progression in that time.
29. (29) Raiders (4-11) — No coach has lasted three full years in Oakland since Jon Gruden‘s departure after the 2001 season. Dennis Allen is 8-23 as the leader of the Raiders and very possibly could find himself looking for work in 2014. That would mean the Raiders would have their eighth coach since 2002.
30. (30) Jaguars (4-11) — Aside from a quarterback, the Jaguars need to use their high draft position to draft a pass rusher. The pass rush might be the team’s biggest weakness.
31. (31) Redskins (3-12) – Dan Snyder is the “Eddie Mush” of the NFL. At the time, the hiring of Mike Shanahan seemed like the first good decision he had made in a while. Four years and a 24-39 record later, it looks like Washington will be forced to make another change.
32. (32) Texans (2-13) — Change is on the horizon in Houston. Matt Schaub has been the starter there since 2007 but has won just one playoff game in that span. It’s time for the Texans to go in a different direction.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or send via Twitter to @JoeZWEEI.