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NFL Power Rankings (12/25/18)
The NFL playoff schedule is shaping up and the final week will see a "win-and-in" game between AFC South rivals, a fight for the top seed in the AFC, a do-or-die for the defending champs, and the playoff fate of two teams rest on the Cleveland Browns.
x- clinched division
y- clinched playoff berth
z- clinched home field advantage
1) z-New Orleans Saints (12-2)
Last Week Ranking: 1
Last Game: beat Pittsburgh 31-28
Next Game: vs. Carolina
The last time the Saints secured home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, they won Super Bowl XLIV.
2) x-Chicago Bears (11-4)
Last Week Ranking: 3
Last Game: beat San Francisco 14-9
Next Game: at Minnesota
Winning ugly games in December fits this tough team. If they can secure the #2 seed, it's going to be tough sledding for any team heading into Chicago.
3) y-Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)
Last Week Ranking: 2
Last Game: lost to Baltimore 22-10
Next Game: at Denver
Chargers offensive line was just that, offensive. They gave up four sacks, allowed eight hits on Philip Rivers, were called on six holding penalties, and never got the running game going against a tough Ravens defense.
4) x-Los Angeles Rams (12-3)
Last Week Ranking: 5
Last Game: beat Arizona 31-9
Next Game: vs. San Francisco
Nothing ails a slump like having a bad team like the Cardinals on your schedule. That and having the destructive Aaron Donald on your defense.
5) y-Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Last Week Ranking: 4
Last Game: lost to Seattle 38-31
Next Game: vs. Oakland
Patrick Mahomes has another great game, another crazy throw, but the Chiefs’ deficiencies on defense should worry Kansas City fans. They gave up 464 yards to Seattle, 210 on the ground.
6) x-New England Patriots (10-5)
Last Week Ranking: 8
Last Game: beat Buffalo 24-12
Next Game: vs. New England
The Patriots have won their tenth consecutive division title, an NFL record. Only the Atlanta Braves have a longer streak in North American sports history. The Braves won 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005.
7) y-Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
Last Week Ranking: 9
Last Game: beat Kansas City 38-31
Next Game: vs. Arizona
Seattle clinches a playoff spot and will likely face the Cowboys during Wild Card week. With Russell Wilson, the best running attack in football, and a stingy defense, this is a team no one wants to face in the playoffs.
8) Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Last Week Ranking: 10
Last Game: L.A. Chargers
Next Game: vs. Cleveland
Baltimore stays in the playoff hunt with their single wing offense and tenacious defense. They hold a high powered Chargers offense to just 198 yards.
9) y-Houston Texans (10-5)
Last Week Ranking: 6
Last Game: lost to Philadelphia 24-10
Next Game: vs. Jacksonville
Deshaun Watson sometimes gets lost among all the brilliant quarterback play this season, but there is no doubting his abilities.
10) Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
Last Week Ranking: 7
Last Game: beat N.Y. Giants 28-27
Next Game: at Tennessee
Andrew Luck brings life to a flat Colts team and leads them to a comeback victory. Their eighth win in nine games culminates in a “win and in” divisional showdown against the Titans.
11) Tennessee Titans (9-6)
Last Week Ranking: 13
Last Game: beat Washington 25-16
Next Game: vs. Indianapolis
Titans will need more of this kind of fighting spirit in their season ending battle against the Colts.
12) x-Dallas Cowboys (9-6)
Last Week Ranking: 14
Last Game: beat Tampa Bay 27-20
Next Game: at N.Y. Giants
Even with a division title, a brief playoff appearance might not be good enough to keep Jason Garrett’s job.
13) Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
Last Week Ranking: 12
Last Game: beat Detroit 27-9
Next Game: vs. Chicago
I guess Detroit was giving out Vikings players as souvenirs at Ford’s Field.
14) Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
Last Week Ranking: 15
Last Game: beat Houston 32-30
Next Game: at Washington
Nick Foles is 11-4 in December or later including the postseason. He did his part in keeping their playoff hopes alive with four TD passes and a franchise record 471 passing yards.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
Last Week Ranking: 11
Last Game: lost to New Orleans 31-28
Next Game: vs. Cincinnati
After holding the division lead for most of the season, Pittsburgh now needs help from the Cleveland Browns just to make the playoffs. It’s been a season of missed opportunities for the Steelers.
16) Cleveland Browns (7-7-1)
Last Week Ranking: 16
Last Game: beat Cincinnati 26-18
Next Game: at Baltimore
This rebuilding year by the Browns has been fun to watch. It’ll be even more fun to watch them make a playoff run next season.
17) Atlanta Falcons (6-9)
Last Week Ranking: 17
Last Game: beat Carolina 24-10
Next Game: at Tampa Bay
Rich Eisen reminds us that punters are people too. They’re also pretty damn good tacklers. Just ask Carolina returner Kenjon Barner about Matt “The Hitman” Bosher.
18) Green Bay Packers (6-8-1)
Last Week Ranking: 20
Last Game: beat N.Y. Jets 44-38 in OT
Next Game: vs. Detroit
Sighting “leadership reasons,” Aaron Rodgers plays instead of resting his ailing knee and throws for 442 yards.
19) San Francisco 49ers (4-11)
Last Week Ranking: 24
Last Game: lost to Chicago 14-9
Next Game: at L.A. Rams
The 49ers showed some game as they went toe-to-toe against the playoff bound Bears. I wonder if they could be next season’s Bears...
20) New York Giants (5-10)
Last Week Ranking: 25
Last Game: lost to Indianapolis 28-27
Next Game: vs. Dallas
The Giants have four losses by a combined nine points. In three of their road losses, they lost the game in the final minute. Are they closer to being a good team or is it all an illusion?
21) New York Jets (4-11)
Last Week Ranking: 29
Last Game: lost to Green Bay 44-38 in OT
Next Game: at New England
Sam Darnold threw for a career-high 341 yards with three touchdowns. It looks like they’ve got the QB of the future to build around. Now, they'll need someone to coach him.
22) Buffalo Bills (5-10)
Last Week Ranking: 18
Last Game: lost to New England 24-12
Next Game: vs. Miami
The Bills showed some talent in their secondary with Tre White and Jordan Poyer against the Patriots. But their offense needs some weapons.
23) Carolina Panthers (6-9)
Last Week Ranking: 21
Last Game: lost to Atlanta 24-10
Next Game: at New Orleans
The porous Carolina o-line nearly got second string QB Taylor Heinicke knocked out of the game. It was a reminder of how much Cam Newton endured this season and how his size masked the myriad problems on that line.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)
Last Week Ranking: 30
Last Game: beat Miami 17-7
Next Game: at Houston
Blake Bortles, yes that guy, came off the bench to spark a Jags win.
25) Miami Dolphins (7-8)
Last Week Ranking: 19
Last Game: lost to Jacksonville 17-7
Next Game: at Buffalo
Since 1994, the Dolphins are 199-199. It’s fitting for what has been a mediocre franchise for nearly two decades.
26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10)
Last Week Ranking: 28
Last Game: lost to Dallas 27-20
Next Game: vs. Atlanta
If the Bucs are going to keep Jameis Winston, his fifth-year option will cost them $20.1 million.
27) Oakland Raiders (4-11)
Last Week Ranking: 31
Last Game: beat Denver 27-14
Next Game: at Kansas City
With their lease with the city of Oakland ending and their Las Vegas stadium still under construction, perhaps the Raiders could turn themselves into a barnstorming team. Wouldn’t it be fun to see them go through St. Louis, Joplin, Missouri or Oklahoma City? They could call themselves the Route 66 Raiders.
28) Washington Redskins (7-8)
Last Week Ranking: 23
Last Game: lost to Tennessee 25-17
Next Game: vs. Philadelphia
This season is Jay Gruden’s fifth season as the head coach. It’s a longer tenure than any of the other eight coaches owner Daniel Synder has hired. Gruden’s record is 35-43-1.
29) Denver Broncos (6-9)
Last Week Ranking: 26
Last Game: lost to Oakland 27-14
Next Game: vs. L.A. Chargers
The first half went like this for the Denver offense: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt and a missed field goal. One of those punts turned into this.
30) Detroit Lions (5-10)
Last Week Ranking: 27
Last Game: lost to Minnesota 27-9
Next Game: at Green Bay
Detroit’s injury-riddled offense has scored 17 points or fewer in five straight games.
31) Cincinnati Bengals (7-8)
Last Week Ranking: 22
Last Game: lost to Cleveland 26-18
Next Game: at Pittsburgh
After seeing Cleveland turn their season around, it’s clear that Hue Jackson shouldn’t be a coaching candidate for any position on the Bengals.
32) Arizona Cardinals (3-12)
Last Week Ranking: 32
Last Game: lost to L.A. Rams 31-9
Next Game: at Seattle
If this was the last home game for Larry Fitzgerald in a Cardinals uniform, he left the fans with one last gem.