Carson Wentz and Josh McCown are out. Nick Foles and Bryce Petty are in. Oh, and some guy named Aaron Rodgers is returning for the Packers. This late in the season, it’s hard to see big shakeups in the power ratings, but when the MVP favorite tears his ACL and the best quarterback on the planet is cleared to return, well, that’s just enough to do it. Here are the power rankings heading into Week 15.
(1) New England Patriots
They just lost to a pitiful Dolphins team but they are still the best team in the league going forward. Don’t believe me? Well just consider they are 3-point favorites over their biggest competition in the AFC on the road. For all non-Patriots fans, it’s fun to watch them struggle on the national stage but that’s no reason to knock them off the pedestal as the best team in the league. In the words of Bill Belichick: (inaudible mumbling).
(2) Jacksonville Jaguars
I want to reiterate that I don’t make these power rankings up. I make changes to team strengths due to injuries but for the most part, the computer does the heavy lifting and I just click the mouse to crunch the numbers. That being said, I still do believe in the Jaguars. They have a great defense and running game and they are doing a good job of hiding Blake Bortles as much as they can. Jacksonville is a great team, deal with it.
(3) New Orleans Saints
Again, coming off a loss this late in the season isn’t going to slide you down the rankings. Especially a close loss on a short week to a division rival when your best offensive weapon leaves the game in the first quarter. The Rams are right in the mix in the NFC but first need to clinch their division.
(4) Los Angeles Rams
Another beneficiary of the Carson Wentz injury. The Rams more than held their own against the Eagles last week and have shown a lack of experience isn’t going to make them any less dangerous in the postseason.
(5) Minnesota Vikings
The rankings have the Saints and Rams a smidge better than the Vikings right now but Minnesota is now the favorite to come out of the NFC. Only the Patriots and Steelers have better odds of winning the Superbowl than the Vikings.
(6) Pittsburgh Steelers
Ryan Shazier’s injury is one of those that makes football the secondary concern. But on the field, losing a good interior linebacker is more important than most fans and bettors realize (see: Sean Lee). Giving up 38 points to the Ravens in their first game without him isn’t a good sign although the Steelers’ offense can keep up with anybody.
(7) Seattle Seahawks
It is likely that I adjusted the Seahawks too much when they lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary. Or I underestimated Russell Wilson’s ability to improve his game and vault himself into the MVP discussion. Either way the Seahawks are in familiar territory, smack dab in the middle of the NFC playoff hunt.
(8) Baltimore Ravens
Some metrics such as yards per play aren’t in love with the Ravens but our numbers still like them as a top 10 team in the league. Defense and special teams still matter in this league and the Ravens are exceptional in both areas.
(9) Los Angeles Chargers
Hopefully San Diego-ites…San Diegoens….San Diegans aren’t watching because it would be brutal to see your team make a huge run in your rival city in a soccer stadium with virtually no home-field advantage. Philip Rivers is lighting it up, the defense has two of the best pass rushers in the league, and they are now clearly one of the top teams in the NFL.
(10) Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers isn’t in the MVP discussion but in terms of most value to his team (and to the betting line) he’s the clear favorite. With Rodgers under center, the Packers immediately become a top 10 team but still have a tough road ahead. Our simulations give Green Bay just a 6.3% chance of making it to the playoffs.
(11) Carolina Panthers
The tough road for the Packers starts this week in Carolina. The Panthers were in the Super Bowl just two seasons ago but they are somehow an afterthought in the stacked NFC. Carolina’s biggest weakness has to be Cam Newton’s fashion choices in postgame news conferences.
(12) Atlanta Falcons
If the playoffs started today, the Falcons would be in as the 6-seed. Our simulations have Atlanta as the odd man out. While the Packers, Lions, and Cowboys all still have aspirations to get hot and sneak in, there are essentially seven teams fighting for six spots and Atlanta’s remaining schedule doesn’t do them any favors. One thing all Falcons fans should be rooting for? The Rams to beat the Seahawks this week. The Rams winning the division would put the Seahawks in the wild card race and the Falcons have the important head-to-head tiebreaker.
(13) Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles’ tumble down the power rankings mercifully comes to an end here. You could make a case for them to be a bit higher but they are in the same tier as the Packers/Patriots/Falcons and that feels about right until we see more of Nick Foles. The Eagles are still in great shape as they have a 75% chance of getting the 1-seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
(14) Kansas City Chiefs
This video explains the Chiefs better than I ever could:
— Jonny Loquasto (@JQuasto) December 6, 2017
(15) Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are getting healthy at the right time but it’s most likely too little, too late. Dallas has just a 3.1% chance of making the playoffs.
(16) Detroit Lions
Detroit’s slim hopes of getting into the playoffs got even slimmer with the return of Aaron Rodgers. The Lions will need to win out and at home against the Packers in Week 17 just got a lot more difficult.
(17) Oakland Raiders
We may look back and see that 2016 was the outlier for Derek Carr and he’s not the franchise quarterback that everyone touted him as.
(18) Tennessee Titans
The Titans are frauds and are still 68% to make the playoffs. This is just not a very good football team and may have even more problems if Mariota is unable to suit up for the remaining three games.
(19) Washington Redskins
Washington’s season is over so now the question at quarterback is going to be brought up from now until they finally make a long-term decision on Kirk Cousins.
(20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I thought the Bucs were overhyped prior to the season but can’t say I expected a 4-9 record at this point in the season either. With this much talent on the team, I would expect a coaching change to be made as soon as the season is over.
(21) Cincinnati Bengals
The most exciting thing the Bengals have done this season is make a trade with the Browns that didn’t actually get done. That’s not ideal.
(22) Chicago Bears
The Bears are sticking to the plan of getting Trubisky some much-needed experience. I’m sure their GM wishes they would lose a few more games to help them out in next year’s draft though.
(23) Buffalo Bills
The Bills seem like a better team than 23rd in the league but the numbers just don’t bear that out. The Bills do have two games left against the Dolphins sandwiched around a road game at New England. Not impossible, but highly unlikely that Buffalo ends their playoff drought.
(24) Arizona Cardinals
The Adrian Peterson trade didn’t exactly work out. Who would’ve thought?
(25) Denver Broncos
Denver is terrible but still only feels like a decent quarterback away from competing again. Does John Elway lure another Manning to the Mile High City next year?
(26) San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo has led the Niners to two straight victories and looks downright competent. Marquise Goodwin looks like a rising wide receiver and when they get Pierre Garcon back next year could have a pretty talented offense. The rebuild in San Fran may not take as long as we think.
(27) Houston Texans
There’s been a ton of teams hurt by injuries but don’t think anyone has been hit as hard as the Texans. We’ll see what they can do at full strength in 2018.
(28) Miami Dolphins
Winning one game against the Patriots doesn’t make you a good team but it does make you question why they can’t have that type of defensive effort in every game.
(29) New York Giants
How do you get a fanbase to rally around a 2-11 football team? You bench the 2-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for Geno Smith. That was great to see but it doesn’t magically fix all of the Giants problems either.
(30) New York Jets
Of course Wentz got all of the attention this week, but it’s a shame that Josh McCown was injured as well as he was playing. This Jets team had played well above expectations for much of the season.
(31) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have won three games this season. The opposing quarterbacks in those three games were Brian Hoyer, Deshone Kizer, and Tom Savage.
(32) Cleveland Browns
Always and forever.