Wow, well just take a look at that scorching hot take in the headline. Ok, now that you’ve processed that information, let me tell you that I generally hate hot takes. Just saying something contrarian to get page views is something I despise actually. I’m not just thinking of ways to rank teams to rile up fan bases. In fact, these aren’t even my rankings. Let me put this in bold so it’s clear: the rankings are generated from a computer model. Of course I have some input, mostly by weighting different factors and adjusting for injuries, but for the most part the numbers are crunched by a program and this is the result.
This isn’t to say I disagree because I think there is a case to be made for Jacksonville as the best team in the league. I’m also not oblivious to the fact that there is no way that they would be favored over New England on a neutral field given public perception and where the bets would come in for that matchup. But what these numbers tell me is that I would probably find value on the Jaguars in that situation. Okay, that’s enough explanation for one week, let’s get to the rankings.
(1) Jacksonville Jaguars
They don’t have a glaring weakness anymore. Blake Bortles is playing well and most importantly is avoiding turnovers. Let the defense keep you in the game and don’t make any mistakes to cost you a chance at a win. It’s called Alex Smith-ing and Bortles is certainly capable of doing it.
(2) New England Patriots
It’s amazing that this is the first week that New England hasn’t been at the top spot in our rankings and it comes AFTER beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Patriots are still the favorites to win the Super Bowl and as long as they can avoid an upset from either the Bills or Jets. The road to the Super Bowl will go through Foxboro.
(3) Los Angeles Rams
The top team in the NFC with two weeks to play is the Los Angeles Rams. Sean McVay is the front-runner for NFL coach of the year for turning the offense into a well-oiled machine to complement a defense that is frightening to opposing quarterbacks.
(4) Minnesota Vikings
Sometimes good fortune just falls into your lap. Sam Bradford gets injured and Case Keenum is forced to fill in and the next thing you know, you are the favorite to be the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in your home stadium. While McVay is the favorite, Mike Zimmer is severely underrated and should be at the top of the list for best coaches in the league.
(5) New Orleans Saints
The Saints haven’t wrapped up the competitive NFC South just yet but with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram leading a running attack the likes of which we haven’t seen in the Brees-era, they are once again Super Bowl contenders.
(6) Baltimore Ravens
This ranking seems to surprise or irk people as well. They may as well be Jacksonville-lite. Joe Flacco has not been good so people automatically dismiss their chances, but unlike their quarterback, their defense is elite.
(7) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are getting unhealthy at the wrong time, losing Ryan Shazier for the season and now Antonio Brown for a few games as well. The best wide receiver in the league is expected to be back for the playoffs but it’s fair to question whether or not he will be 100% by then. Without all of their offensive weapons at full strength, they will have a tough time outscoring teams in the postseason.
(8) Kansas City Chiefs
It looks like the Chiefs have decided to be good again. After winning a crucial game against the Chargers, they are a near-lock to win the AFC West and host a game at Arrowhead. Could a rematch of the Week 1 game in New England be in their future?
(9) Carolina Panthers
It’s amazing how many people dismiss Carolina’s chance this year and I don’t really get why. Cam Newton won the MVP two years ago. The Panthers went to the Super Bowl two years ago. Their roster is mostly intact and will be a tough out for anybody in the loaded NFC playoffs.
(10) Philadelphia Eagles
Sure, Nick Foles looked impressive in his first start but let’s pump the brakes just a little bit. Let’s remember that they were playing the New York Giants who are currently 4-point underdogs to Drew-freaking-Stanton. It was good to see him succeed but I’m not going to say that the dropoff from Wentz to Foles isn’t substantial just yet.
(11) Los Angeles Chargers
Losing a night game in Arrowhead to a divisional rival doesn’t make you a bad team and the Chargers were certainly due for a less than stellar game. Surprisingly, they are still the favorite to get the 6-seed according to our numbers as the other two teams (Buffalo, Tennessee) just don’t have the same talent that the Chargers do.
(12) Green Bay Packers (with Rodgers)
There is some talk of Green Bay resting Rodgers and I can’t say I blame them. They have nothing to gain by playing him and he didn’t look particularly comfortable against Carolina last week. The team that really hopes that Rodgers rests? That would be the Lions who are still fighting for the last playoff spot and play Green Bay at home in Week 17.
(13) Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta just had a tough six-game stretch and came out of it with four wins, vaulting them to the favorites to get the final playoff spot over teams like the Lions, Cowboys, and Seahawks. The bad part is their schedule doesn’t get any easier with two divisional games against the Saints and Panthers looming.
(14) Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys now have Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, and Ezekiel Elliott back for the final two games. They’ll need to win both and get some help to get into the playoffs but getting healthy at this point in the season gives fans in Dallas some hope, no matter how fleeting it is.
(15) Seattle Seahawks
Seattle was pummeled by the Rams and while they have been able to hang around in the standings, their injuries appear to have caught up with them. Russel Wilson’s MVP chances seemed to instantly vanish after the loss and their playoff chances will too if they can’t get a road win in Dallas on Sunday.
(16) Detroit Lions
All four teams vying for that final playoff spot in the NFC are bunched together in our power ratings. The Lions might be the team to sneak in though with a Bengals matchup in Week 16 and a home game against the Packers in Week 17.
(17) Oakland Raiders
This seems too high to me but then again I’m a Chiefs fan so I would probably rank them 33rd. Although if Derek Carr doesn’t fumble and they beat the Cowboys at home, the outlook looks completely different. Instead, the high hopes in the preseason fell flat and the Raiders have to find out how to improve to compete next year.
(18) Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback in my opinion. Then again, you could easily be 18th with other quarterbacks who don’t want a gigantic contract. To Kirk or not to Kirk, that is the question.
(19) Tennessee Titans
If the playoffs started today, the Titans would be the 5th seed in the AFC. Unfortunately for the Titans, they don’t start today and they still have two tough games against the Rams and Jaguars. We project them as significant underdogs in both games and losing out on the playoffs.
(20) Buffalo Bills
The Bills would also be in the playoffs if they started today, but they have to go to New England this week and then travel to Miami in Week 17. If they split, they don’t have the tiebreaker over the Chargers or Titans so their odds are slim.
(21) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last night was a good example of how they are good enough to hang with some of the better teams in the league but just never seem to completely get the job done. Perhaps Jameis Winston needs the Sean McVay treatment and needs a new system to thrive.
(22) Chicago Bears
Admittedly, I’m hesitant to judge quarterbacks so quickly now after seeing the transformation of Jared Goff after just one year. John Fox has never been revered as a brilliant offensive mind so I don’t want to judge Trubisky too closely but I’m not sure if Chicago got their QB of the future.
(23) Denver Broncos
The Broncos have made the change at quarterback, going back to Brock Osweiler. The big question will be if anyone actually notices the difference.
(24) Cincinnati Bengals
It appears that Marvin Lewis won’t be returning next year. You have to give the Bengals front office credit for making the right decision, even if it’s a decade late.
(25) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are ahead of just seven teams in our power rankings and yet they are still mathematically alive for the playoffs. And anytime a playoff spot is on the line you know Jay Cutler is going to give at least 60 or 70% to get the job done.
(26) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have made a quarterback change as well, going from Blaine Gabbert to Drew Stanton, which is an excellent excuse to use this gif.
(27) San Francisco 49ers
This actually seemed a little low to me. After all, handsome Jimmy G has led the Niners to three straight wins. Then you realize that all three of those wins were against bad teams and that most of San Francisco’s points came off field goals and not touchdowns. That’s not a great recipe for sustainable success but San Francisco may have gotten a steal of a quarterback depending on how big that next contract is.
(28) New York Giants
As great as it was to see the Giants bring back their quarterback, at what point do you decide to move on? Benching him for Geno Smith was idiotic but do you draft a QB early and trade/release Eli and start the rebuild in 2018? Or let someone learn behind Eli for a season? A lot of questions in New York but Manning’s days are numbered either way.
(29) New York Jets
McCown is done so the Jets fall down the rankings. But overall I think you have to call this a successful season for Todd Bowles and the Jets…unless of course your main goal was to tank. In that case, you actually lost to the Browns.
(30) Houston Texans
Given the hindsight we now have, you can certainly see why Deshaun Watson was in the MVP discussion. If Houston’s roster remains intact and they get everybody back next year, they could be scary good and a good value play in the weaker AFC.
(31) Indianapolis Colts
They need so much help everywhere that bringing back Andrew Luck next year isn’t just going to magically solve all of their problems, and there doesn’t seem to be any guarantee that even that will happen.
(32) Cleveland Browns
Always and forever.