Hope you all enjoyed my rankings this year! Stay tuned for my feature articles during the playoffs.
1. New England Patriots (12-4) – The Patriots took advantage of a Texans loss to lock up the #2 seed and first round bye. They need this bye week in order for key players like Talib, Dennard, and now Ninkovich to get healthy. With Gronk back the Patriots should be the favorites to win the AFC; the only playoff team they lost to was Baltimore in week 3.
2. Denver Broncos (13-3) – Yes, Peyton Manning has won 11 games in a row. As I said in my last power rankings, the Broncos haven’t been tested since their week 5 loss to New England, only beating two playoff teams, the Ravens and Bengals. All three of their losses came against playoff teams as well. It will be interesting to see how they play when tested.
3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) – The ‘Niners have many weapons at their disposal and could reach the Super Bowl they were so close to last year. They need to get Randy Moss more involved in the offense and need more stability at kicker. I don’t think replacing Akers with Billy Cundiff is the answer.
4. Atlanta Falcons (13-3) – Matt Ryan desperately wants to knock the huge monkey off his back and win a playoff game for once. They have home field advantage throughout the playoffs so they need to take advantage. Fun fact: the past two years, the team that beat the Falcons won the Super Bowl.
5. Green Bay Packers (11-5) – It bothers me that Green Bay knew that the Vikings were going to run the ball constantly against them, but still didn’t have an answer for AP. Not that shutting him down is easy, but he was still able to rush for 199 yards. They have an advantage next week being at Lambeau Field but they need to make adjustments.
6. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) – Ray Lewis being able to return for the playoffs is close to the miracle that allowed AP and Manning to have incredible seasons coming off injuries. He will give this defense a much needed boost, but their secondary is still hurting with the loss of underrated CB Lardarius Webb. The key for this team moving forward is utilizing Ray Rice as much as possible.
7. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – What an emotional week 17 for the Colts. They get Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines, and shut down the division-rival Texans to knock them out of the #1 seed. This team is riding an emotional high and could upset the Ravens next week in Baltimore. Just think, if they win and the Texans beat the Bengals, the Colts will travel to Mile High to face Peyton Manning’s new team. The media will go nuts…
8. Washington Redskins (10-6) – The ‘Skins proved that they can still win even if RGIII doesn’t play at his best. Alfred Morris put the team on his back and ran right through the Cowboys defense. While a good team, I don’t think this team has the defensive depth to go deep in the playoffs.
9. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – The Seahawks are a good team but will likely have to play on the road for the entire playoffs, which has been their Achilles heel all season. I predict one-and-done for this team going into red-hot Washington.
10. Houston Texans (12-4) – The Texans are in trouble. They let the #1 seed in the AFC, which they held on to nearly all season, slip away in the final week. They haven’t looked the same since their thrashing in New England.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) – Defense is a strong point for this team allowing just 12.8 points per game in their last 8 games. They can capitalize on a weakened Texans team and win this weekend.
12. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – Congratulations to Adrian Peterson for eclipsing 2,000 yards this season. It’s never an easy feat, particularly coming off an injury that should have kept him out at least part of this season. Christian Ponder needs to play like he did last week, though, in order to stay alive in the playoffs.
13. Chicago Bears (10-6) – I feel bad for Lovie Smith, but this team needed a change. If they don’t focus on improving the offensive line this off-season, they are doing themselves a disservice.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – Poor Tony Romo. He usually plays well in spite of a terrible offensive line and injuries. His inability to play well in must-win games is what will haunt his career. Jerry Jones needs to address the serious gaps in this team.
15. New York Giants (9-7) – This team seems to either win the Super Bowl or not even make the playoffs. They should think about trading with New England to get Jake Ballard back, now that they’ve locked up Gronk and Hernandez for another five years.
16. Carolina Panthers (7-9) – After starting out the season in a slump this team has played very well recently, perhaps well enough to save Ron Rivera’s job. They must address the defensive issues this off-season in order to have a more productive year in 2013.
17. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) – The Rams have pieces to work with on both sides of the ball. Janoris Jenkins is electrifying and helps the entire secondary play better. They need more star players in order to continue improving.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – This was a hugely disappointing season for the city of Pittsburgh. When games were on the line, Big Ben usually cost them the win. The defense was still impressive, however, even with Polamalu sidelined for much of the season.
19. New Orleans Saints (7-9) – Locking up Sean Payton to a five-year deal is a huge boost for this team. His absence was a huge reason for Drew Brees’ struggles and the defense’s complete ineptitude. They must acquire more defensive playmakers if they want to get back to the Super Bowl next year.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) – Josh Freeman still is the future of this franchise, but he needs to be more consistent. Perhaps next year will be the year they get back to the playoffs.
21. San Diego Chargers (7-9) – Firing Norv Turner should hopefully help this team. Phil Rivers may have one last chance in San Diego, though, before they start shopping around for a new quarterback.
22. Cleveland Browns (5-11) – I don’t completely agree with the firing of Pat Shurmer, but a 9-23 record is hard to argue with. Brandon Weeden should get another chance as starter next year but this organization is still a mess that everything is up in the air.
23. Miami Dolphins (7-9) – Tannehill is the future of this team, but they need to build around him. They need a running back other than Reggie Bush and a good receiver that is consistent.
24. Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Chan Gailey getting fired was the right move. Whoever becomes coach next year (possibly Ken Whisenhunt) absolutely must make CJ Spiller a more integral part of this team.
25. Tennessee Titans (6-10) – The Titans scored 4 touchdowns on Sunday without an offensive snap. An impressive way to end the season, but then again they were playing one of the few teams worse than them, the Jags.
26. Detroit Lions (4-12) – The prolonged absence of Jahvid Best has kept this team without a consistent rushing attack. They need to draft or acquire a RB to take the pressure off of Matt Stafford. They also need to improve their offensive line and secondary.
27. Arizona Cardinals (5-11) – Andy Reid looks like the next likely coach in Arizona. He claims he can fix Kevin Kolb and he may be right. No quarterback will play well, though, with an offensive line as awful as the Cardinals have.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) – I don’t see Nick Foles as the future of this team, but we’ll have to see. Rumor has it the Eagles are interested in ex-Patriots offensive coordinator and Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.
29. New York Jets (6-10) – Firing Mike Tannenbaum instantly made this team better. His past decisions have been a joke comparable to the play of any quarterback on their roster. If Sanchez stays on this team next year, which he should due to the amount of money he is guaranteed to make, he will be a backup.
30. Oakland Raiders (4-12) – Speaking of joke, enter the Oakland Raiders. This team has so many needs to address I don’t know where to begin.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) – The Jags need a quarterback to utilize Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Unfortunately he is likely to not emerge from this upcoming draft.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) – The only positive thing to come from this past season is the first pick in the draft.