Down to the wire in both the AFC and NFC for playoff spots. With one week to go, nothing has really been decided, and there is lots to play for in each conference. With that, let’s give you this weeks power rankings for week 16 of the NFL.
NFC Top 5
1. Chicago (1) – The Bears despite having nothing to play for, still won their 13th game of the season Sunday in Detroit. This week you can bet that most of the starters will see limited time against the Packers at home. Its going to be interesting to see how this team matches up with the likes of the Saints, Eagles, and Seahawks in that first round game come January 13th or 14th.
2. New Orleans (3) – Sunday was another growth spurt for the Saints, as they dominated the Giants in New Jersey 30-7. Both Reggie and Deuce look poised to be big playmakers in the playoffs, and with a game at home in the divisional all but clinched (they should beat the Panthers at home Sunday), this team is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs. They cannot afford a letdown like they had against the Redskins two weeks ago.
3. Philadelphia (4) – This Eagles team has steadily moved up the rankings the past few weeks, and now with a win Chirstmas day over the Cowboys, they have the top spot in the NFC East and can clinch the division with a win over Atlanta Sunday. You can bet that Jeff Garcia is seeing dollar signs with every win, and as long as he is playing well, you can sense this team is going to get past round one and give either the Saints or Bears some headaches in round two.
4. Dallas (2) – A tough loss to swallow against the Eagles on Chirstmas has the Cowboys now needing a win and an Eagles loss to regain the division Sunday. While its not out of the question, as the Boys play the Lions and Philly plays Atlanta, you get a feeling that they blew it Monday vs the Eagles. Can Parcells get his team a win Sunday and then hopefully ready for a playoff run? That is the big question.
5. Seattle (5) – Seattle is reeling, but somehow clinched the division Sunday after a loss and then a 49’ers loss. With three home losses, a win in the wild card round vs the Cowboys or Giants is no sure thing. Can this group find it in themselves to regain the form of last season and make a serious playoff run? Doubtful.
NFC Bottom 3
1. Detroit (1) – I said last week that Sunday at home would be their “Super Bowl” vs the Bears, and of course – they lost. I applaud this teams fan base for protesting the game Sunday with a walkout. It’s about time that Matt Millen and the rest of the dead weight in the front office take a walk, and give a chance to some fresh blood in there. They will have a lot of time to decide on who to take with one of the two top spots in the draft.
2. Tampa Bay (2) – Despite a win over the awful Browns, the Bucs stay in the two hole in the NFC bottom feeders. Has Jon Gruden saved his job with a gutsy outing vs the Bears and then a win over the Browns? That is the big question with the Bucs. A win over the West champion Seahawks at home Sunday would likely keep him in Tampa for another year.
3. Arizona (3) – Another team with a nice win on Sunday, as they beat the 49’ers in San Fran. They did it with backup Kurt Warner in for the injured Matt Leinart, which made the win even bigger. Many insiders say that even with that win, and possibly a win at San Diego on Sunday vs the Chargers, who probably sit most of their starters, Denny Green is gone. That might not be a bad thing as this team needs a new voice.
AFC Top 5
1. San Diego (1) – Can Marty finally do it? That will be the haunting question as the Chargers enter the playoffs as the number one seed in the AFC. Phillip Rivers’ inexperience is a big concern for this team, but I think that as we look at the field there is no question that this is the best team in the league. With an all-world running back and a great defense, I think this is clearly the team to beat.
2. Baltimore (3) – They should send Christmas cards to the Houston Texans, as with a dominating win over the Steelers and an Indy loss in Houston, the Ravens look like they will have a first-round bye with a win Sunday over the Bills at home. Steve McNair is the piece of the puzzle this team needed, and with the defense as good as ever, it looks like a rematch with the Chargers from week three is in the cards for the AFC title game.
3. Indianapolis (2) – A loss to the Texans in Houston shows just how far this team is behind the squad of 2005. They still cannot stop the run, and with that loss it looks as if they now are going to need to win two games, one on the road, to make it to the AFC Championship game. The window is closing more and more each year on the Colts, and once eliminated, there has to be a long look at some changes to this team.
4. New England (4) – The last two weeks has proved that you can’t count the Pats out yet. Sunday was a huge win for this team as they beat the Jaguars in J-Ville, basically knocking them out of the playoff picture. They should have the advantage over the Broncos or Jets in a wild card playoff game, and then its likely on to San Diego for a second round divisional game with the Chargers. I would not want to San Diego knowing that the Pats are coming to town.
5. Denver (-) – After dropping four in a row, many had the Broncos out of the playoff picture, but with two straight wins, they look like the #5 seed as they have rebounded nicely against the Cardinals and Bengals. Sunday was a hard fought win over the Bengals, and while this weeks game vs the 49’ers won’t be easy, they should be able to get the home win and move on to face the Pats or Colts in the wild card game in two weeks.
AFC Bottom 3
1. Oakland (1) – Can you say Brady Quinn? That is the player that the Raiders should target in April in the NFL draft. They sorely need a playmaker at the QB spot, and this season of disaster proves that more than ever. They also look like they are going to get themselves a new coach as well, as Art Shell’s one and done as the head coach, and you can bet that Al Davis will pull the trigger on a coach much sooner this time around than last year.
2. Cleveland (2) – A home loss to Tampa Bay could signal the end of the Romeo Crennel era as Browns coach. Another player that should be shopped around is wide out Braylon Edwards, who first missed a team meeting on Friday, then dropped two passes Sunday, and also will get a fine for violating the league uniform code. What a mess this entire organization is.
3. Houston (3) – Kudos to the Texans for a great win Sunday over the Colts on a last second field goal. They have played the spoilers this season winning two games from the Jags and now with a win over the division champion Colts. They have a ways to go, but a 3-3 mark in the division is a major step in the right direction.