• Top 10, Bottom 5: Week 14

    There isn't much time left now. The final few weeks of the regular season are upon us, and the margin for error continues to shrink even further. While the picture looks relatively clear over in the NFC, just about every team in the AFC appears to be fighting for a postseason berth still. Except for Cleveland. Sorry Cleveland. But hey, Johnny Manziel might be back and that's pretty cool. Silver linings and all that.

    Top 10:

    1) Carolina Panthers - Continuing to be the only undefeated team in the league, thirteen weeks into the season, is enough justification to remain in the top spot for another cycle. They survived a scare from the Saints, including a moment where Cam Newton was briefly turned into an aluminum can while heading for the goal line, but still emerged unscathed. They get another divisional opponent this week in the Falcons, who are somehow still only one game back in the Wild Card race. (PR: 1)

    2) Cincinnati Bengals - There's a real possibility that the Bengals are the best team in the NFL right now. The defense is predictably stout, and Andy Dalton continues to play the best football of his professional career. And as the Patriots continue to break into pieces, it becomes more and more difficult to discern who Cincinnati's biggest challenge will be when it comes to representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. (PR: 3)

    3) Arizona Cardinals - I still feel adamant that Carson Palmer is getting unfairly shafted in the MVP discussion; largely because the Panthers are undefeated and people impulsively are rushing to place the credit for that upon Cam Newton's beautiful shoulders when Palmer has been the objectively better passer this year by just about any measure you choose to use. Maybe another primetime showcase performance against the Minnesota Paper Tigers on Thursday Night can change some opinions. (PR: 4)

    4) New England Patriots - Okay, Denver is a pretty good team and with Brock Osweiler at the helm of the offense they're actually potent on that side of the ball. Losing to them is pretty fair. Losing to the Eagles though when they just spent the last two weeks getting outscored (approximately) 172-17? That one is a bit harder to swallow. New England needs to hope that Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski can get healthy enough to play sooner rather than later, otherwise a chance at a repeat is looking grim. (PR: 2)

    5) Denver Broncos - It wasn't a particularly pretty victory against the morose Chargers this past weekend, but it was good enough to get the job done at least. Brock Osweiler doesn't have to be spectacular to keep the Broncos advancing, he just has to be good enough and let the defense drown opponents à la the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Buccaneers. If the Patriots can't get their weapons back, Denver would very well look like the second-best club in the AFC down the stretch. (PR: 5)

    6) Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs now own the longest active winning streak in the NFL not belonging to the Carolina Panthers after starting the season 1-5. This is the kind of team we talk about when we talk about variance in one-game sample sizes. If you're looking for a dark horse in the postseason, Kansas City might very well be your best bet. This week they play the Chargers for a second time this year, after being last seen throttling them by thirty points in San Diego. It would appear that their win streak will remain intact. (PR: 6)

    7) Seattle Seahawks - Seattle blew through Minnesota like a locomotive, and while I'm skeptical of Minnesota's actual strength, there's no pouring water on that kind of dominant performance from start to finish. Barring an unexpected drop-off in their current level of play combined with a surge from a team like Atlanta or Tampa, it looks like Seattle has a fairly clear path to the postseason and could very well be one of the most dangerous teams in the hunt for the championship. (PR: 8)

    8) Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers looked every bit as impressive dismantling the Colts as the Seahawks did doing the same thing to the Vikings. It's a tougher road ahead for Pittsburgh considering the glut of solid teams all still vying for postseason berths in the AFC, along with the fact that their next two games come against the Bengals and the Broncos, but they don't look to be too far behind the Chiefs at the moment in terms of on-field prowess. (PR: 9)

    9) Green Bay Packers - It never ceases to amaze me just how poorly teams will sometimes defend against the Hail Mary. Regardless, Richard Rodgers was somehow open sixty yards downfield, Aaron Rodgers hit him, and the Packers snatched a victory from the edge of the cliff to put away the Lions and stay level with the Vikings in the NFC North. Green Bay is creaking towards the finish line, but they have a chance to remind everyone of what they're capable of with the moribund Cowboys coming to Lambeau this weekend. (PR: 7)

    10) New York Jets - The Jets eked out an overtime win over the Giants in the battle for New York/Jersey to get to 7-5 and keep pace with the Chiefs and Steelers in the AFC Wild Card race. It was a much needed victory for them, as giving the Chiefs and Steelers even the slightest bit of a lead this close to the end of the season could end up proving insurmountable. I wonder if the teams at the top of this most recent Draft have regrets about letting Leonard Williams fall, because he looks like a beast. (PR: NR)

    Honorable Mentions:

    - I mentioned the Buccaneers in this space last week too, but the possibility of Tampa sneaking in out of nowhere to claim a Wild Card spot is getting increasingly realistic. They're just a game back of the Seahawks at 6-6, and while I think Seattle is a substantially better team, it would only take one hiccup for the Bucs to draw even with them.

    Bottom 5:

    28) Jacksonville Jaguars - The real and tangible development of Blake Bortles shouldn't be overlooked here, even though the Jags' defense has proved unable to remain at a level much better than porous. (PR: NR)

    29) New Orleans Saints - Sean Payton's contract is up at the end of the year, and he is going to look like a man fleeing a burning building while Drew Brees claws at the floorboards and begs him to take him too. (PR: 30)

    30) San Diego Chargers - The good news is that as long as the Chargers manage to keep the margin of victory under thirty this time against the Chiefs, that represents real improvement! (PR: NR)

    31) San Francisco 49ers - Well damn, the 49ers somehow keep winning games so I can't really keep the at the very bottom this week. Just give Blaine Gabbert a sixty-million dollar extension and let's be done with it. (PR: 32)

    32) Cleveland Browns - If you played for the Browns, you'd want to spend all your free time getting hammered too. (PR: 31)

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      The Bears deserved a Cameo here after loosing to Blaine Gabbert. The offense needs to clean up it's act in the red zone, and the special teams are atrocious. The Defense still can't stop the run (we need better DEs and depth at NT).
    1. xmenehune's Avatar
      I'd raise SF as well and either add BAL or MIA or maybe both... lol