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NFL Power Rankings (12/18/18)
x- clinched division
y- clinched playoff berth
1) x-New Orleans Saints (12-2)
Last Week Ranking: 1
Last Game: beat Carolina 12-9
Next Game: vs. Pittsburgh
With Drew Brees struggling and the offense stalling in the red zone, the Saints defense kicked in with a dominating performance. They registered three sacks and forced two turnovers.
2) y-Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)
Last Week Ranking: 3
Last Game: beat Kansas City 29-28
Next Game: vs. Baltimore (Saturday, Dec 22)
Philip Rivers endured five sacks, two bad interceptions, and the losses of Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen to beat the Chiefs for the first time in nine tries. The win clinches their first playoff spot since 2014.
3) x-Chicago Bears (10-4)
Last Week Ranking: 5
Last Game: beat Green Bay 24-17
Next Game: at San Francisco
The Bears are NFC North champs for the first time since 2010. Unlike the other contenders, they can win games on defense and with a good running game.
4) y-Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
Last Week Ranking: 2
Last Game: lost to L.A. Chargers 29-28
Next Game: at Seattle
The Chiefs are still on track to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but their margin of error is gone.
5) x-Los Angeles Rams (11-3)
Last Week Ranking: 4
Last Game: lost to Philadelphia 30-23
Next Game: at Arizona
Since their epic Monday Night game three weeks ago, Jared Goff has thrown one touchdown, seven interceptions, and lost three fumbles.
6) Houston Texans (10-4)
Last Week Ranking: 8
Last Game: beat N.Y. Jets 29-22
Next Game: at Philadelphia
Deshaun Watson threw for 294 yards, two touchdowns, and overcame six sacks to inch the Texans closer to the AFC South title and a first round bye in the playoffs.
7) Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
Last Week Ranking: 10
Last Game: beat Dallas 23-0
Next Game: vs. N.Y. Giants
Colts win in a classic style with defense and a running game. Marlon Mack gained 139 yards on 27 carries while Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Darius Leonard had eleven tackles to add to his league leading 146.
8) New England Patriots (9-5)
Last Week Ranking: 6
Last Game: lost to Pittsburgh 17-10
Next Game: vs. Buffalo
The Patriots will likely win the AFC East and be the 3rd or 4th seed in the AFC playoffs. They’ve never reached the Super Bowl in the Brady/Belichick era without securing one of the top two seeds. As poorly as New England has played in the last three weeks, they remain the dragon to slay for any AFC contender.
9) Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
Last Week Ranking: 7
Last Game: lost to San Francisco 26-23 in OT
Next Game: vs. Kansas City
Seahawks lose a sloppy game where they committed 14 penalties for a team record 148 yards. A win would have secured them one of the NFC Wild Card spots.
10) Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
Last Week Ranking: 11
Last Game: beat Tampa Bay 20-16
Next Game: at L.A. Chargers (Saturday, Dec 22)
Baltimore's offense under Lamar Jackson may remind some of 1940's football (86 rushing attempts to just 66 pass completions) but he’s got the Ravens winning. I worry that style will get him injured.
11) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)
Last Week Ranking: 12
Last Game: beat New England 17-10
Next Game: at New Orleans
It wasn’t pretty, but Steelers win a game they needed to stay atop the AFC North standings. But I just can’t trust them this season. Which team will show from week to week?
12) Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)
Last Week Ranking: 16
Last Game: beat Miami 41-17
Next Game: at Detroit
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer replaces OC John DeFilippo with Kevin Stefanski. Minnesota responds with a season high in points, rushing yards (220), and nine sacks on defense.
13) Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Last Week Ranking: 13
Last Game: beat N.Y. Giants 17-0
Next Game: vs. Washington (Saturday, Dec 22)
I’d prefer that my QB not do this, but I do have to say that Marcus Mariotta’s block on Alec Ogletree was a thing of beauty.
14) Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
Last Week Ranking: 9
Last Game: lost to Indianapolis 23-0
Next Game: vs. Tampa Bay
Dallas is shut out for the first time in 15 years. Their red zone efficiency of 44.2% ranks them 31st in the NFL. But in their last three games, that number is a meager 18.1%.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
Last Week Ranking: 15
Last Game: L.A. Rams
Next Game: vs. Houston
Nick Foles delivers to save Philadelphia for the time being. The Eagles defense did their part by forcing three turnovers and holding the Rams to just 4 of 12 on third down conversions.
16) Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)
Last Week Ranking: 17
Last Game: beat Denver 17-16
Next Game: vs. Cincinnati
The Browns still have a small chance at the playoffs this season, but this time next season, they'll be one of the league's best teams. At least, that’s what this writer is saying.
17) Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
Last Week Ranking: 25
Last Game: beat Arizona 40-14
Next Game: at Carolina
For one game, the high flying Falcons returned to form with 435 yards of offense and their highest point total of the season.
18) Buffalo Bills (5-9)
Last Week Ranking: 26
Last Game: beat Detroit 14-13
Next Game: at New England
How about a little love for Lorenzo Alexander? The 35 year-old linebacker had six tackles, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed against the Lions and was named the team’s candidate for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
19) Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Last Week Ranking: 14
Last Game: lost to Minnesota 41-17
Next Game: vs. Jacksonville
A foot injury will end Frank Gore’s consecutive games played streak at 122.
20) Green Bay Packers (5-8-1)
Last Week Ranking: 18
Last Game: lost to Chicago 23-17
Next Game: at N.Y. Jets
At this point, Green Bay should shut down Aaron Rodgers for the season. There may or may not be an injury to his knee, but there is no point in playing him any further. Take the lumps, play out the string, find the right candidates for the coaching staff, and retool the roster.
21) Washington Redskins (7-7)
Last Week Ranking: 31
Last Game: beat Jacksonville 16-13
Next Game: at Tennessee (Saturday, Dec 22)
Alex Smith was released from the hospital on Dec 15th and will continue his recovery at home and through outpatient rehab. Best wishes to the Helix High (San Diego) alumnus.
22) Carolina Panthers (6-8)
Last Week Ranking: 21
Last Game: lost to New Orleans 12-9
Next Game: vs. Atlanta
Cam Newton's arm does not look right. His throws have an odd downward projection before they get to his receivers. He only had 131 yards passing with a season-low 52.5 passer rating. As I suggested for Aaron Rodgers, I think Carolina should shut Newton down for the season and get a head start on fixing whatever is ailing him.
23) Cincinnati Bengals (6-8)
Last Week Ranking: 27
Last Game: beat Oakland 30-16
Next Game: at Cleveland
This win assures the Bengals a non-losing season and will probably be enough for the team to keep Marvin Lewis yet another season. Why? Because they’re the Bengals, that’s why.
24) San Francisco 49ers (4-10)
Last Week Ranking: 28
Last Game: beat Seattle 26-23 in OT
Next Game: at Chicago
The last time the 49ers defeated Seattle, they were playing in Candlestick Park (2013.)
25) New York Giants (5-9)
Last Week Ranking: 19
Last Game: lost to Tennessee 17-0
Next Game: at Indianapolis
Giants can’t get anything from Saquon Barkley (56 yards of offense) and were an abysmal 3 of 16 on third down.
26) Denver Broncos (6-8)
Last Week Ranking: 20
Last Game: lost to Cleveland 17-16
Next Game: at Oakland (Monday, Dec 24th)
After a questionable decision by head coach Vance Joseph during their game against the Browns, the Denver Post didn’t mince words on what they thought should happen at season’s end.
27) Detroit Lions (5-9)
Last Week Ranking: 22
Last Game: lost to Buffalo 14-13
Next Game: vs. Minnesota
It’s another lost season in Detroit, but the Lions have a glimmer of hope in WR Kenny Golladay who had seven receptions for a career high 146 yards. He has 1,005 receiving yards for the season.
28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9)
Last Week Ranking: 23
Last Game: lost to Baltimore 20-16
Next Game: at Dallas
With their ninth loss, the Buccaneers clinch a losing season for the 29th time in 43 seasons. Their winning percentage is just 38.7%, the lowest of all the NFL franchises in history.
29) New York Jets (4-10)
Last Week Ranking: 24
Last Game: lost to Houston 29-22
Next Game: vs. Green Bay
Sam Darnold has shown flashes of his potential this season. Now it’s up for the Jets to find some playmakers around him and find the right coach.
30) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)
Last Week Ranking: 30
Last Game: lost to Washington 16-13
Next Game: at Miami
I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised about Jalen Ramsey’s comments. When you’ve been brash and can’t back up your words, it must be someone else’s fault.
31) Oakland Raiders (3-11)
Last Week Ranking: 29
Last Game: lost to Cincinnati 30-16
Next Game: vs. Denver (Monday, Dec 24th)
With Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack killing it elsewhere, Jon Gruden needs to nail it with all three of his first round picks this upcoming draft. He MUST.
32) Arizona Cardinals (3-11)
Last Week Ranking: 32
Last Game: lost to Atlanta 40-17
Next Game: vs. L.A. Rams
Since it’s already going to happen, here’s what the Cardinals can do with the first pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.