• Top 10, Bottom 5: Week 15

    Eight of the ten teams from last week's Top Ten emerged victorious in their match-ups this past weekend, and even the two teams that did lose still retain spots in the rankings, so it won't be the busiest week in terms of movement. For one team near the very top of the rankings though, it might suddenly be fair to question how much longer they can reasonably ranked in the Top Ten at all.

    Top 10:

    1) Carolina Panthers - Please Cam, don't hurt 'em. The Panthers absolutely eviscerated the Falcons in a manner that was almost questionable for television broadcast. In a way it really was a perfect example of the Panthers' entire season in one game; Cam shined with three touchdowns while the defense was utterly dominant. I'm still of the belief that Cam Newton's MVP candidacy is something we should maybe pump the brakes on before we get ahead of ourselves, but this was one of the team's best performances of the year. (PR: 1)

    2) Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals were perhaps somewhat fortunate to escape with a victory over the Vikings on Thursday Night Football, but Thursday night games can sometimes be conducive to teams playing at less than their true talent level. I still think Arizona is firmly in the mix for the conversation regarding which team exactly is the most formidable in the league, even if they have been playing at a slightly lower level recently. (PR: 3)

    3) New England Patriots - Well so much for all the hysteria regarding the Patriots and their vulnerability as people continue to get injured. Granted, the Texans aren't very good, but the Patriots went out and reminded everybody that they very much still are. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola looked no worse for wear, and with the Bengals now looking a lot less daunting, New England seems to be back on top of the heap in the AFC. (PR: 4)

    4) Seattle Seahawks - Ugh. That was not pleasant. As a Ravens fan, I took very little pleasure in watching that beatdown that the Seahawks put upon them this past weekend (the little pleasure was because I'm secretly a masochist and burning everything to the ground with Jimmy Clausen carries a certain kind of sweetness). Nevertheless, the Seahawks have been surging recently and - assuming they make the postseason as the #5 seed - they look like a very difficult out in the first round for whomever comes out of the NFC East. (PR: 7)

    5) Kansas City Chiefs - Is getting a close-fought win over a divisional rival by a touchdown a bit of a letdown when you already beat them by thirty points just a few weeks earlier? Either way, the Chiefs beat the Chargers again, and with the Broncos losing too, the division suddenly seems within reach. They're two games behind Denver with games against Baltimore and Cleveland coming up before a finale at home against the Raiders. I'm not saying it's the most likely outcome, but if I was a betting man... (PR: 6)

    6) Pittsburgh Steelers - Their victory over the Bengals is of course skewed because of the injury to Andy Dalton, but make no mistake, the Steelers can compete with just about any other team in the league when they're playing at their best. They don't miss Le'Veon Bell as much as we all might have thought they would - DeAngelo Williams showing that he still has some juice left himself - and the defense continues to be just good enough to not drag down the offense. The road to the postseason in the AFC Wild Card race is still crowded, but if the Steelers get in they won't be a team anyone wants to draw early. (PR: 7)

    7) Cincinnati Bengals - I don't even have any snark here; losing Andy Dalton for the remainder of the season seriously sucks. This was one of the best teams in the history of the entire franchise, and they've just been dealt an incredible blow. Maybe A.J. McCarron can step in with some preparation and perform a reasonable facsimile of Dalton down the stretch, but the odds for Cincinnati now seem fairly grim. (PR: 2)

    8) Denver Broncos - A close loss to the Raiders doesn't do much to hurt the Broncos' chances of winning the division, as it would take some great luck for the Chiefs to steal the West, but the game did expose some of the flaws in Brock Osweiler. He missed on several throws that, if he had hit on, could have tilted the final result in the Broncos' favor. It's still incredibly difficult to determine which quarterback gives Denver the best chance of winning in the postseason between Osweiler and Peyton Manning, which probably isn't a great sign of their prospects of winning a championship. (PR: 5)

    9) Green Bay Packers - It's going to take more than one drubbing of a bad Cowboys team to wash out the bad taste that the Packers have left in everyone's mouth over the last few weeks. That said, they did do what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams, so that's encouraging. They still appear to be lagging behind the rest of the best in the NFC, and while anything can happen in the Playoffs, you'd think that teams like Carolina and Arizona would rather play the Packers as opposed to the surging Seahawks. (PR: 9)

    10) New York Jets - Similarly to the Packers, the Jets did what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams by beating down the Titans, but even with that impressive performance they don't seem to quite measure up to the upper echelon in the AFC. They're still neck and neck with the Chiefs and Steelers just in terms of wins and losses, but the greater numbers imply that the Jets are a considerable step behind both of those other clubs. (PR: 10)

    Honorable Mentions:

    - A loss by both the Colts and the Texans this past weekend means that the Jaguars are back to being just one game behind both of those teams in the race for the AFC South. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns? Pretty good?

    - If we could somehow combine the Giants' offense with the Eagles' defense, we might have a pretty decent team. I suppose this isn't really an honorable mention so much as an implausible observation.

    Bottom 5:

    28) Dallas Cowboys - It's not easy to be so bad that you can't even be competitive in the NFC East this year. (PR: NR)

    29) San Diego Chargers - Well, they kept the margin of victory far under thirty this time. Real improvement! (PR: 30)

    30) Tennessee Titans - Marcus Mariota continues to look like a rookie quarterback is supposed to look. The good news is that Blake Bortles and Derek Carr are proving this year that year two can be filled with positive steps. (PR: NR)

    31) Cleveland Browns - The battle for the basement was fought hard between the Browns and the 49ers this past week, but one team had Money on their side. (PR: 32)

    32) San Francisco 49ers - The other team had Blaine Gabbert. (PR: 31)

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Please Cam, don't hurt 'em. The Panthers absolutely eviscerated the Falcons in a manner that was almost questionable for television broadcast. In a way it really was a perfect example of the Panthers' entire season in one game
      This is true. I almost felt sorry for the Falcons, but then I remembered Roddy White getting away from Norman and Nakamura in 2012, and I got over it.
      The Giants' game could be a tough one for the Panthers. We're missing Bene Benwikere, and Tillman may not be quite ready to return. That leaves us with Cortland Finnegan and Colin Jones, and while I think Finnegan was a smart pickup, Jones has had some issues this season. Benwikere is a just a huge loss and I expect Manning to exploit that secondary easily. Jonathan Stewart is also out; Tolbert is wonderful, but he, Fozzy, and Artis-Payne cannot make up for Stewart's combination of power, speed and shiftiness. He's a special player.
      I don't know if the Panthers are the best team in the league; they've been on a roll an
      d I hope that momentum will carry them through a big road game against a good offense this week, but the injuries have lowered my expectations. I will be leaving them to their own devices for the first time this season, as I will be at the Colts' game
      praying for Clipboard Jesus to come up big for the horseshoes.

      I don't even have any snark here; losing Andy Dalton for the remainder of the season seriously sucks.
      I was in my car listening to the Colts game when I heard about this. I almost went off the road.
      I think the Bengals can manage with McCarron against SF, and possibly against the Ravens as well, but that Denver D will eat them alive. Of course, they only need to score 15 points to beat the Broncos, so if Eifert is healthy....
      Speaking of Denver, last week's game did go some way toward proving what I've been saying all season: the problems with that offense are only marginally related to Peyton Manning's supposed downward spiral. The running game, the lousy protection and dropped passes have been huge problems all season. I really think too many people discounted the effect a new head coach and an entirely different offensive scheme would have on the Broncos; these are two factors which should never be discounted regardless of a team's level of talent and recent success. Why Kubiak would install this offense with an ancient, immobile QB who has run a particular style of offense for his entire career is beyond me; the supposed emphasis on the running game seems questionable as well, given that the only consistent quality of the Broncos run game for the past few seasons has been its inconsistency. Seems to me that it matters little whether Manning comes back or Osweiler finishes the season. The Broncos defense may win them a title, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. I'd maybe bet a couple of chickens
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      The Bears lost to Blaine Gabbert and Kirk Cousins...