I had to buy a new keyboard to type these power rankings on, because the old one was SOAKED IN TEARS. Yes, even I, in my undying optimism, have come to accept that this is the end of the road for our playoff hopes. I won’t even begin to predict the upcoming off-season moves, but I’d like to think they will make our team better, whatever they will be (there’s that optimism again). There is still much to look forward to, Bills Mafia, no matter how hopeless it seems. In the coming weeks, we could spoil Marshawn Lynch’s day in an upset, complete a sweep of the Miami Fish, and potentially be the team that eliminates the Jets from playoff contention. While my tickets to that season finale won’t hold the magic of a possible post-season berth, I’m still clutching them with excitement at the chance to see my Bills in person with a shot at revenge and redemption for our embarrassing Week 1 game.
This week’s power rankings got pretty jumbled in the top 10, with a lot of unexpected wins and losses.
Fastest Riser: Dallas Cowboys (+5)
Steepest Falls: New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills (all -4)
- New England Patriots (+3): I hate putting the Patriots on top, but who can argue at this point? Their offense is consistently unstoppable, and their defense is somehow getting better every week. Those three early losses are a distant memory now. If the Niners can’t stop them this week, who can?
- Denver Broncos (+1): The Broncos move up as the former top two falter. As great as their winning streak has been, just remember that their 3 losses came to the other 3 teams in the top 4 of this list. This week against the Ravens they get to prove they can beat a playoff team.
- Atlanta Falcons (-2): The Falcons fell in that trap HARD. We all know that the Falcons could play the Panthers 10 times this season, and they’d win 9. Honestly, if I’m a Falcons fan I’m happy. This is exactly the wake-up call they need to keep them focused and working hard going into the playoffs.
- Houston Texans (-2): Matt Schaub could barely complete a play against the Patriots on Monday night. What happened? The Texans were dominated on almost every play, and it wasn’t even the 4th quarter when they effectively gave up. They ran the clock, and starters were benched. It’s not like the Texans NEEDED a win, but losing one more this year could cost them that top seed.
- San Francisco 49ers (+2): Call me crazy, but I still think Alex Smith is the better QB in San Francisco. That said, I’m happy to root for Kaepernick’s continued success. Maybe Alex Smith hits the market and the Bills step in? Ok, I know it’s a longshot… but a guy can dream. Let’s see how that defense stands up to the Pats on Sunday night.
- Green Bay Packers (-1): Green Bay gets bumped down a bit for a less-than-spectacular win. Aaron Rodgers just hasn’t looked his best this year, and neither has the Packers defense. Don’t get me wrong, this is a strong unit, but they don’t quite fit into my top 5.
- Seattle Seahawks (+3): Watching the Seahawks lay the smack down on the Cardinals somehow reminded me of seeing Neo figure out he was “The One” in “The Matrix.” Like Keanu Reeves stopping bullets, the Seahawks forced an insane 8 turnovers and completely shut-out their opponent. Not only are they favored to make the playoffs, but they could actually steal the division from the Niners at this rate. Woah.
- Baltimore Ravens (-2): If you have to point at a reason for the Ravens current 2-game slide, it has to be the defense. While some blame goes to the offense for not executing late in games, that Ravens defense looks almost porous at times. They need a win, but the upcoming Broncos are tougher than the Ravens’ previous two opponents.
- New York Giants (same): It’s admirable how well the Giants play when their back is against the wall, but they really need to work on performing for a full season. I guess it’s just the end of the season that really matters, though. The Giants know that better than anyone. If they really want to impress us, they’ll beat the Falcons this week.
- Indianapolis Colts (-2): To the Colts credit, in an ugly win over Tennessee they’ve put themselves a win away from the postseason. That alone is incredible. It’s tough, however, to believe they’ll go anywhere in the playoffs. They’ve won a lot of very close games against so-so teams. This week’s game against the Texans will either bring the Colts down to earth or prove to us that they can contend.
- Washington Redskins (+2): While everyone in DC is happy to hear RG3 is okay, I don’t think anyone would be terribly concerned if he sat out a game either. Kirk Cousins didn’t blink when the game was put on his shoulders. Everything is going right for this team, and if they squeeze into the playoffs they could be very dangerous.
- Minnesota Vikings (+3): Here’s my case for Adrian Peterson as the NFL MVP: In the last 7 games, Peterson has ran for more yards than his QB has thrown. There isn’t a lot about the Vikings to write home about, but Adrian Peterson (along with his supporting O-Line) makes this team capable of stealing games. There isn’t much room in the NFC Wild Card race, though, and their weaknesses may still keep them on the outside looking in come January.
- Chicago Bears (-1): Brian Urlacher may be getting old, but it’s easy to see just how much the Bears need him anchoring that defense. In his absence, the Bears could do little to stop the Vikings run-game. Late-season Cutler injuries are becoming an annual tradition in Chicago. This upcoming game against the Packers is simply HUGE.
- Cincinnati Bengals (-3): After weeks of riding high, it’s gotta be painful to lose a heartbreaker against the Cowboys. I still think they could edge the Steelers for the #6 seed, but I doubt they’ll go much farther. If they lose to the Eagles on Thursday night, however, that would change everything.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (-1): They get Big Ben back… and lose to the bloody Chargers. For the Steelers’ sake, you hope that poor defensive performance was a fluke. This week’s game against the Cowboys means everything for both teams.
- Dallas Cowboys (+5): Speaking of which, my lack of confidence in the Cowboys took a back-seat this week. Call me sentimental, but I have to give them a lot of credit for the thrilling comeback win amidst a terrible weekend for the organization. Like the Chiefs last week, it was good to see Dallas get the win.
- St. Louis Rams (+3): I’d like to say that we got beat by a contender, but that just isn’t the case. While the Rams are a longshot to make the postseason, they deserve credit for outlasting our Bills like they outlasted the Niners. Also, they’re managing all this without their biggest playmaker, Danny Amendola. With the right moves, this team could be very good in 2013. As for this week, I think Adrian Peterson will be too much for them.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2): The Bucs are in the middle of an epic fall from grace. Only a few weeks ago they were in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot. Now they get beat by the Eagles and they sit near the bottom of a long list of Wild Card suitors. Even if they win their last 3 games, it may be too little too late.
- Detroit Lions (same): Yes, their record is worse than several teams below them on this list, but in their current 5-game losing streak they’ve been close to winning each one. Consider this: The Lions’ last four losses were to the Packers, Texans, Colts, and Packers again. All playoff teams. In each of those 4 losses, the margin of victory was 7 points or less. This team is better than their record, though I’m sure they aren’t comforted by that fact. They finally get a softball this week against the Cardinals. They’ve GOT to win that one, if only to heal their wounded pride.
- New York Jets (+3): The absolute WORST part of this weekend was that everything happened right for the Jets. Not only did they beat Jacksonville, but they got losses by the Bengals and Steelers (something that would have helped us too… if only we had won). A deep, dark part of me wants the Jets to do well from here… so we can officially eliminate them and crush their dreams in Week 17. MWAHAHAHAHAH!!!
- New Orleans Saints (-4): Yeah, so my prediction for a Saints playoff run looks pretty stupid right about now. It blows my mind how BAD Drew Brees has been this year, especially after an unprecedented 2011 season. They’d like to stop the bleeding against Tampa Bay this week.
- Buffalo Bills (-4): As much as it sounds like a cop out, injuries were what did us in on Sunday. Sam Young and David Snow actually deserve a lot of credit for performing well in their first start against an aggressive Rams defense, but Eric Wood is not easily replaced. This was especially apparent in the ground game, which was surprisingly and painfully stagnant. On the bright side, it looks like Snow and Young will get some much needed experience in the coming weeks. Depth at O-Line is important. We’ve learned that the hard way.
- Cleveland Browns (+1): Should I feel good for the Browns or bad for the Bills that both teams share the same record? It says a lot about preseason expectations when you look at the reactions for each team. We’re 5-8 and pissed. The Browns are 5-8 and ecstatic. The Browns don’t have any easy games left on their schedule, though. They close out the season with the Redskins, the Broncos, and the Steelers.
- San Diego Chargers (+1): As surprising as the victory over the Steelers was, the Chargers are still having a terrible season. You can’t have continued success in this league when your feature running back averages 2.6 yards per carry. The Chargers organization also proved it has no class with its preemptive announcement of the eventual firing of Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith. At least wait until the end of the season, man.
- Carolina Panthers (+3): Can I say they got lucky? They got lucky. Condescension aside, Cam Newton appears to be recovering from his terrible start in his second year. I expect his third year to be significantly better, given what we’re seeing at the end of the season. They could beat the Chargers and keep Cam smiling.
- Miami Dolphins (-4): They started with a decent defense in the first half, and then all hell broke loose. Reggie Bush is putting on “Meh” performances and Tannehill just needs WAY more experience. I still don’t understand how they let Brandon Marshall go. They finally get a winnable game against the Jags, but I could see them losing this one too.
- Tennessee Titans (-1): Jake Locker didn’t have a great game, and Chris Johnson had an even worse one. They also got handed an interception that shouldn’t have counted, and they still couldn’t when on one of Andrew Luck’s worst days. This team is playing so poorly, I’d pick the Jets to beat them.
- Philadelphia Eagles (+4): Nick Foles somehow became the clutch performer of the week on Sunday. In a game where the Eagles had almost NO run game, Foles carried the team and looked like Peyton Manning in the process. 381 yards, 2 TDs, no picks. Something tells me Vick is done in Philly.
- Kansas City Chiefs (-2): Welp, back to crap go the Chiefs. Besides their very first play (an 80 yard TD for Charles), the Chiefs could barely generate an offense, and they made the Browns look great in the process. Peyton Hillis probably wasn’t happy to be back in Cleveland. This week they get a chance to prove they’re at least better than the Raiders.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): If you’re wondering how bad the Jags are, they’re currently 0-3 against the AFC East, and besides the Pats we don’t exactly have a strong division this year. They could make it 0-4 against the Dolphins.
- Oakland Raiders (-1): Yep. About what you’d expect from the Raiders. I suppose some credit is deserved for hanging with Denver for a bit, but we all knew how it was gonna turn out on Thursday night. Darren McFadden has gone from “Run DMC” to “Calmly-Stroll DMC.”
- Arizona Cardinals (-1): Holy freaking cow that was bad. I mean, where does a team even go from here? Looking at the draft, listing Arizona’s needs, you just list EVERY offensive position, along with several defensive ones too. Oh, and list QB twice. I don’t think you can even fire Ken Whisenhunt this year. It’s hard to blame him for being handed a team with zero QBs.
Have you SEEN the schedule this week? Lot’s of really big games with MASSIVE playoff implications. Broncos-Ravens, Colts-Texans, Giants-Falcons, Packers-Bears, and Niners-Patriots… Hell, even Vikings-Rams could help decide the playoff race in the NFC. Even with the Bills playoff hopes effectively over, there’s a lot of good football to watch this week. When the late games come around, though, my eyes will be squarely on Toronto and our brewing upset of the Seahawks. LET’S GO BUFFALO! SLAP THOSE SEACHICKENS!