NFL Power Rankings – Week 15

(Philadelphia, Pa) – The time is now for every team in the NFL looking to join the playoff race.  Last week the Titans, Cardinals, and Giants got their tickets punched for the NFL playoffs, but nine coveted spots remain.  The action on the field in the NFL is intense as teams like the Philadelphia Eagles (at 7-5-1, they need to win-out) are scrambling to find the right mix in navigating difficult schedule in hopes of making the playoffs.  I don’t know if it is by design, but the NFL schedule makers must have known something as several potential playoff teams will be playing each other down the stretch – This week key playoff match-ups include Panthers vs. Broncos, Steelers vs. Ravens, Giants vs. Cowboys, Buccaneers vs. Falcons, Vikings vs. Cardinals, and Saints vs. Bears (Chicago won in overtime 27-24).

Except for the three clinched divisions, the divisional standings are very tight especially in the AFC East – Jets, Patriots, and Dolphins all (8-5).  So everything looks like week 17 in the NFL will be a doozy.  Here is the AFC picture: AFC South (The Titans, 12-1, clinched the division, but the red-hot Colts (9-4) should get a wildcard), AFC North (Steelers lead the Ravens by 1 game – Their rivalry battle this week is huge), AFC East (Jets, Patriots, and Dolphins all tied at the top – look for the Patriots to pull this one out as they are 21-2 in December since 2003), and in the AFC West (The Broncos lead the Chargers by 2 games, but they need to finish the job before their highly anticipated week 17 battle).  In the NFC the races are just as tight: NFC East (Giants, 10-3, won the division last week despite a loss to the Eagles.  The rest of the division is very interesting as the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins all still have a shot with 3 games left – all teams have winning records), NFC North (Vikings lead the Bears by a 1/2 game and the Vikes have the Williams Defensive tackles in the lineup thanks to a judge), NFC South (The Panthers showed the Bucs, who were the kings of this division, but there are more games to be played.  The Bucs and Falcons still have a shot — all the teams have .500 or better records), and in the NFC West (The Cardinals won their first division title since 1975, but you have to watch for NFL leading spoiler the Niners in the last few games of the season).

Now on to the rankings for this week

1.  Titans (12-1) – Hammered the pitiful Browns, sending Romeo Crennel and possibly Phil Savage closer to the exit.   The Titans go back to the future as they return to Houston to play an improving Texans squad.

2. Giants (11-2) – The G-Men looked a little vulnerable and distracted in a physical home loss to the desperate Eagles. With the NFC East crown already wrapped up, the Giants may not be all that worried about their upcoming match-up with the in-fighting Cowboys.  But the game is on NBC Sunday Night Football and I know head coach Tom Coughlin wants to wipe the bad taste of the Giants’ first home loss from his mouth.

3. Steelers (10-3) – In a game that showed the Steelers’ mettle, Mike Tomlin’s team overcame frigid temperatures and the Dallas Cowboys to post a dramatic playoff-worthy victory.  With an eye on the AFC North title, the Steelers travel to Baltimore to face the hated Ravane

4.  Panthers (10-3) – Led by the “Smash and Dash” combo of  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers rolled over the Bucs like a tank in a big Monday Night Football win.  The road to the NFC South title doesn’t get any easier for the Panthers as they host the Denver Broncos, who are looking to clinch the AFC West.

5.  Colts (9-4) – Make it six in a row as the Colts avoided a letdown by smashing the lowly Bengals.  The road to the playoffs for Peyton and the boys looks even better as they host the horrible Detroit Lions, who just happen to be staring 0-16 right in their face.

6.  Buccaneers (9-4) – The Bucs stellar defense looked very vulnerable and their offense looked average in a Monday Night Football loss to the Panthers.  The Bucs will need to forget about the Panthers as they travel to Atlanta for a key playoff type game against the Falcons.

7.  Patriots (8-5) – The Pats woke up just in time to knock off the lowly Seahawks as receiver Wes Welker led the way.  The Patriots next travel to Oakland to face former AFC title game foe the Raiders in the “Return of Randy” showdown.

8.  Ravens (8-5) – Led by Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, the Ravens beat the pants off the reeling Redskins in “The Battle of the Beltway”.  The Ravens young head coach John Harbaugh will need to do much to motivate his team as the hated Steelers come to town for a game that will decide the AFC North title.

9.  Broncos (8-5) – Mike Shanahan’s team almost let the upstart Chiefs steal one from them, but in the end the potential AFC West champs prevailed.  The Broncos need to show that they can play better defense as they travel to Carolina in hopes of clinching the AFC West with a win.

10.  Vikings (8-5) – Fueled by the judicial system allowing the Williams Defensive Tackle tag to team to keep playing, backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson came off the bench to lead the Vikings passed the winless Lions.  It looks like Jackson will be at the helm as the Vikings travel to the desert to face the NFC West champion Cardinals in a possible playoff preview.

11.  Cardinals (8-5) – The Cardinals took care of business as they beat-up on the hapless Rams as they clinched their first division title since 1975 with a home win.  Looking for some playoff respect, the Cardinals will look to derail NFL rush leader running back Adrian Peterson as the Vikings come to town.

12.  Jets (8-5) –  With the AFC East title in their sights, the Jets underestimated the fired-up Niners in a deflating loss.  In a key AFC East game, the Jets look to stay with the Dlophins and Patriots as they host the dangerous Bills.

13. Cowboys (8-5) – The tough-as-nails Steelers played till the final gun in pulling a out a season-defining win over the Cowboys, who as usual started fighting and losing in the month of December.  Soap Opera storylines are everywhere (Pacman hurt, T.O griping with Romo and Witten, Jerry Jones taking on Marion Barber, and much more) as the Cowboys look to save their season against the New York Giants in Texas Stadium.

14.  Dolphins (8-5) – The Dolphins went north of the border into Toronto, Canada for an important AFC East win over the ascending Bills.  The Dolphins look to continue their miraculous climb from worst to first as they host the very dangerous Niners.

15.  Falcons (8-5) – In a game that may have shown a young team getting a little tired, the Falcons could not pull a win out against the desperate Saints.  The Dirty Birds season will be on the line as they host the Tampa Bay Bucs in a huge AFC South battle.

16.  Eagles (7-5-1) – Fueled by a ground-churning runnning game, the Birds showed a totally new side of themselves as they dominated the formerly perceived to be invincible Giants in the Meadowlands.  The Eagles will need to avoid a huge letdown as the lowly Browns limp into Lincoln Financial Field for Monday Night Football.

17.  Bears (8-6) –  Lovie Smith’s team started a critical 3-game homestand with an easy win over the disappointing Jaguars.  In a big NFL Network Thursday Night NFC North battle, the Bears fueled by rookie running back Matt Forte and some timely pass interference calls defeated the Saints in overtime.

18.  Saints (7-7) – Sean Payton’s team tried to jump back in the playoff race with a solid win over the upstart Atlanta Falcons.  The Saints continued their inconsistent ways by losing in overtime to the Bears on Thursday Night football after their big win over the Falcons.

19.  Redskins (7-6) – The ‘Skins were dominated by the Ravens as they continue to look like a team that has hit the wall in the second half of the 2008 season.  With “genius” Jim Zorn at the helm, the Redskins look to heal their injured and internally fighting team against the host Bengals.

20.  Texans (6-7) –  Led by a career-day by quarterback Matt Schaub,  the Texans kicked the Packers out of the playoff picture with a dominating win.  With an eye towards playing spoiler in the final three games, the Texans will host the Titans in an AFC South grudge match.

21.  Chargers (5-8) – In an NFL Network Thursday Night turn-the-channel game, the Chargers dominated the weak Raiders.  The Chargers will look for an easy win over the host Chiefs while hoping for a Broncos loss.

22.  Bills (6-7) – The Bills didn’t play any better in Toronto than they did in Rich Stadium in Buffao as the Dolphins added another nail to their 2008 season coffin.  The Bills will look to gain some respect as they face the hated Jets in a game that the Brett Favre’s needs badly to stay in first place in the AFC East.

23.  49ers (5-8) – Iron Mike II’s men took Brett Favre and the Jets behind the woodshed as they administered a butt-kicking that made many question the Jets’ playoff dreams.  The NFL’s biggest spoilers will continue their tour of redemption this week in Miami as the Dolphins better watch out.

24. Packers (5-8) –  Surprisingly in their own historic stadium, the Packers defense was dressed down by the Texans in an embarrassing loss.  In the “Battle of the NFL’s Most Disappointing Teams”, the Packers look to make an end of season push against the equally underachieving host Jaguars.

25.  Jaguars (4-9) – The end of the Jack Del Rio era in Jacksonville is near as the Jags continued to put up little fight in rolling over to the Bears.  It is hard to believe that this week’s game between the Packers and Jaguars is a battle of the two most disappointing teams in the NFL.

26.  Browns (4-9) – The Browns were no match for the Titans in a boring game where the most interesting plays were when mercurial player Josh Cribbs had the ball in his hands.  The Dawgs have a chance to make a statement on national television as they take on the host Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

27.  Seahawks (2-11) –  In a game that showed every NFL team will usually fight till the end, the Seahawks almost knocked off the Patriots before losing late in the 4th quarter.  The Hawks will host the Rams in a game that will have huge implication on the top of the 2009 NFL Draft.

28.  Rams (2-11) – Jim Haslett’s team played the role of homecoming team as the Cardinals shoved them around on their way to winning their first division title in over 30 years.  In a toilet bowl special the Seahawks host the Rams in a game where the loser gets a nice comfy seat in the basement of the NFL’s worst division.

29.  Chiefs (2-11) – Herm’s boys hung tough with the Broncos, but in the end the Orange Crush moved closer to an AFC West championship.   The Chiefs again have the opportunity to play spoiler as they host the Chargers, who are hanging on to playoff hopes by a thread.

30.  Raiders (3-10) – The Chargers sent the Raiders closer to a new head coach and possibly a new regime in the off-season with a dominating Thursday Night win.  The Raiders have a great chance to play spoiler as they host the hated New England Patriots in the Al Davis “Tuck Rule” bowl.

31.  Bengals (1-11-1) –  The Colts continued to push the Bengals closer to an impending off-season overhaul.  The Redskins will look to get healthy as they travel to Cincy in search of a playoff saving win.

32.  Lions (0-13) – Culpepper and the Lions tried their hardest to avoid another loss to the Vikings, but in the end an “L” is an “L” in the standings.  The road to avoid (0-16) does not get any easier as the Lions go to Indy to face the red-hot Colts.

NFL Week 15  

Thu, Dec 11

NO 24 @ CHI 27 OT (NFL Network)

Sun, Dec 14

SEA @ STL 1:00 PM  (FOX)

BUF @ NYJ 1:00 PM (CBS)

SF @ MIA  1:00 PM (FOX)

SD @ KC  1:00 PM  (CBS)

GB @ JAC  1:00 PM  (FOX)

DET @ IND  1:00 PM  (FOX)

TEN @ HOU 1:00 PM  (CBS)

WAS @ CIN  1:00 PM  (FOX)

TB @ ATL  1:00 PM  (FOX)

MIN @ ARI  4:05 PM (FOX)

NE @ OAK  4:15 PM  (CBS)

PIT @ BAL  4:15 PM  (CBS)

DEN @ CAR 4:15 PM  (CBS)

NYG @ DAL 8:15 PM  (NBC)         

Mon, Dec 15

CLE @ PHI  8:30 PM  (ESPN)



Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


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