Well that was a bust, huh? As we cruise towards a disappointing end to a disappointing year, we can at least be heartened by the fact that our Bills will be around for a while longer. That 10 year extension was GREAT news. As for this year, there is only our redemption against the Jets to hope for. I don’t want any of that “lose for the draft position” garbage, though. I’m spending hard-earned cash (and vacation time) to be there with many of you fine #BillsMafia members this Sunday. I want a hard fought, well-deserved win to close the year, and I want to experience it with the Bills #FAMbase. Plus, it would be really embarrassing to lose to the Jets 3rd string QB.
Fastest Riser: Seattle Seahawks (+5)
Steepest Falls: Houston Texans (-4), New York Jets (-4)
- Denver Broncos (+2): I’ve passed over the Broncos for far too long now, and while other teams have faltered here and there, the Broncos have just continued to win. They just need to beat the laughable Chiefs and that first round bye is theirs. Does anyone in Denver miss Tebow? I didn’t think so.
- Seattle Seahawks (+5): A lot of folks may suggest this is too high for the Seahawks, but few teams are playing ball like they are. In the last three weeks, the Seahawks have outscored opponents 150-30. Offense, defense, special teams, the Seahawks are doing all of it extremely well.
- San Francisco 49ers (-2): Quite the roller coaster that Niners fans are riding the last two weeks. After clobbering the Patriots, they were subsequently clobbered by the Seahawks, and now their division title is in jeopardy. Sure, it will take an epic collapse to lose to the Cardinals and give up the division, but still the Niners weren’t planning on ending the season like this.
- New England Patriots (-2): The Patsies take a hit for clearly struggling against one of the worst teams in the league on Sunday. Of course they’re still very dangerous, but they likely won’t even get a first round bye, even if they beat the Dolphins this week.
- Atlanta Falcons (-1): The Falcons looked mighty fine on Saturday night, but let’s remember how bad the Lions are this year. Fortunately for them, they have nothing to play for against the Bucs with the top seed already locked up. Expect to see a lot of rested starters on Sunday.
- Green Bay Packers (same): This team is admittedly riding a hot streak, but I think their dominance really hinges on the performance of the defense… which hinges on Clay Matthews. If he’s healthy, the Packers are in it. Clay will be spending Sunday trying to keep Eric Dickerson’s record unbroken.
- Baltimore Ravens (+2): That’s the offense that the Ravens want to play with. They amassed almost 300 yards in the first half alone. Even though they already clinched the division, the game against the Bengals feels like the real battle for the best in the AFC North.
- Minnesota Vikings (+3): There you go. Leslie Frazier, Coach of the Year. This week’s game against the Packers is almost a must-win, but playing in Minnesota I think I’d favor the Vikings. Too bad Adrian Peterson probably won’t manage the record this year, but he could probably land MVP as a consolation prize.
- Houston Texans (-4): That offense just doesn’t look dangerous anymore, does it? Even the infamous Texans defense seems a bit less scary these days. Can they even beat the Colts in Indy this week?
- Washington Redskins (-2): They drop a bit due to struggles against the Eagles, but they are still in position to win the NFC East, amazingly enough. The health of RG3 is a concern, but they can’t afford to rest him at this stage.
- Cincinnati Bengals (+1): Guess who is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the AFC North? Get it? Andy Dalton? Anyways… strong play on both sides of the ball have put the Bengals in the postseason, and now they get a chance to knock the division champion Ravens down a peg.
- Indianapolis Colts (-2): Late-game heroics required to beat the Chiefs? The Colts need to be better than that. It would be nice to see them prove themselves playoff-ready against the Texans, but they’re already locked in at the #5 seed. If the starters play, it won’t be for the whole game.
- Chicago Bears (+3): The Bears stay in the hunt with that win, but they need help. First they have to beat the Lions. Then they get to watch the late game between the Packers and Vikings and root for the Pack to win. I’m not sure they deserve a playoff berth at this point, though.
- Dallas Cowboys (-1): Even after a disappointing loss to the Saints, the Cowboys are still sitting pretty with a win-and-they’re-in scenario. The final game of the season will be everything we love about the NFL. Two divisional foes fighting for their lives in prime time.
- New York Giants (-1): All but eliminated from the playoffs, the Giants didn’t look remotely close to competitive against the Ravens. At this rate it’s hard for me to believe they can even finish the season with a win over the Eagles.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (-1): The Steelers defense did what it could this year, but the offense just couldn’t close the deal. That was the story on Sunday as the Steelers held the Bengals to only 13 points, but couldn’t manage more than 10 for themselves. They get to end with a feel-good game against Cleveland, but I imagine Pittsburgh fans will be angry whether they win or lose this week.
- New Orleans Saints (same): We’re seeing glimpses of the playoff team that could have been, but the Saints just couldn’t overcome their early-season problems this year. As long as the organization doesn’t see any huge personnel losses (like Drew Brees somehow leaving), this team should be in the mix in 2013.
- St. Louis Rams (same): The Rams have to feel great about their season. They owned the Niners this year and they came somewhat close to the playoffs. They could even manage a winning season this year, though it would take beating the Seahawks in Seattle (something no team has accomplished this year).
- Carolina Panthers (same): In a win over the Raiders, Cam Newton still managed to look like a spoiled, whiny brat. He got flagged for blowing up at a referee (which he later apologized for), and he got away with kicking an Oakland player in the head (and no apology for that ejection-worthy act is forthcoming). He’s got talent, but he looks like a terrible leader right now.
- Miami Dolphins (+2): Stupid Dolphins. We did plenty to make them look good on Sunday, and now they’re pretty much locked in as #2 in the AFC East (not a big accomplishment at this point). As much as I’d love to see them upset the Pats, we kind of know that won’t happen.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1): What happened to these guys? They effectively had the season that our Bills had last year. They started out looking hot and upsetting big teams… and then everything went to crap. They have a shot to beat Atlanta this week, but that’s only because the Falcons will be resting their starters most of the game.
- San Diego Chargers (+4): The Chargers have actually managed a strong finish to the season, which is amazing considering most of the front office has no job to play for at this point. Of the teams searching for new coaches next year, the Chargers have to be one of the more attractive options.
- Cleveland Browns (same): It’s been up and down for the Browns, but I think most Browns fans are looking forward to next year. Trent Richardson is clearly the big story there, though the jury’s still out on Weeden. They’d sure like to end the season on a high note by upsetting the Steelers.
- Buffalo Bills (same): Oy. Not only have we underperformed this season, but we may end up with an even worse record than last year. It’s nice to see CJ get the ball, but when we turn over the ball like we did on Sunday it doesn’t matter much. We may only play for pride this Sunday, but I still want to get even for that Week 1 embarrassment.
- New York Jets (-4): I have to rank the Jets below us just because of the epic level of dysfunction the Jets manage to produce each week. Even hard-working, ne’er-do-wrong Tim Tebow managed to give up on them this week. With Tebow’s exit all but assured, I can’t blame them for going with McElroy as the starter.
- Tennessee Titans (-1): A blowout loss like that makes you wonder about Jake Locker. Not that he’s getting much help in Tennessee. They get Week 17’s “Garbage Bowl” game against the Jags to find out which AFC South team is the worst at the end of the year.
- Detroit Lions (same): It looks like Calvin Johnson will make even more history this week as he aims to break 2000 yards. Some are talking about “garbage time” yardage for Megatron, but don’t forget that the Lions have been losing a lot of close games. 8 of their 11 losses were decided by 8 points or less. It ain’t garbage time when you’re trying to win.
- Philadelphia Eagles (same): Nice attempt against the Redskins, but the Eagles are still an utter disappointment this year. Michael Vick gets his shot at redemption against the rival Giants, and he better take advantage. His performance this week may determine his future in the league.
- Arizona Cardinals (same): Down to their 4th QB of the season, the Cardinals are eyeing a great spot in next year’s draft. They’ll need it. They have new fans this week, as everyone in Seattle is rooting for them to pull off a highly unlikely upset of the Niners.
- Oakland Raiders (same): The Raiders are on their own QB carousel of sorts, and they have Terrell Pryor sitting on the bench with everyone on the coaching staff telling us how he can’t run the offense. Then why is he on the team?
- Jacksonville Jaguars (same): The Jags deserve praise for taking it to the Patriots early on, but it wasn’t a surprise to see their lead get blown like it did. They’re in the rare situation where they can regain some pride by beating the Titans this week and STILL earn the 2nd pick in the draft. Appreciate the little victories.
- Kansas City Chiefs (same): Here’s another team refusing to quit in the face of adversity, but it would take a miracle for the Chiefs to avoid the top pick in the draft at this point. I suppose that’s good for them at this point.
So that’s it, folks. I’ll post one last Power Ranking next week for the final twelve playoff teams and then my duties are complete. I’ve had a blast writing these, as it has forced be to think about the league in a way I never have before. It was eye-opening, meditative, often cathartic, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. Through it all I hope I’ve provided a little entertainment and a little insight.
Now let’s ground those Jets! Will you be there? I will. You’ll find me in Hammer’s Lot bright and early, and then in Section 127 for the game. I hope I’ll see you there!
LET’S GO BUFFALO!