2010 NFL Week 15 – Power Rankings

The Tampa Bay Bucs and WR/KR Michael Spurlock will be looking to continue pushing for an NFC Wildcard spot when they host potential spoiler squad, the Detroit Lions, in Week 15

Like a thrilling Kentucky Derby race, the 2010 NFL Season has hit the final turn with cries of “And Down the Stretch, They Come” in the air.  By design or mere coincidence, “Parity” has caused almost every game in the final three weeks of this season to have playoff implications. I am calling Week 15 of the 2010 NFL season, “Time to Answer the Bell”. 

You know somewhere former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell is smiling as the phrase he coined, “Any Given Sunday” is very true in the league this season.  Though the New England Patriots have clinched a playoff berth, they still have work to do to clinch the AFC East crown and there are still 11 other playoff spots up for grabs. 

Game-Temperatures, outside of domes, are reaching frigid levels with snow in several NFL cities — last week many games were played in temperatures of 32 degrees or less including the arctic conditions for the Patriots-Bears game – but teams must continue fighting for one of the NFL’s Coveted 12 Playoff Berths. 

Currently there 18 teams with record ranging from 6-7 to 11-2 that are trying to join the Patriots in the playoffs with three weeks left in the 2010 NFL Season — actually 23 teams mathematically still have a shot so NFL Media says.  After 14 weeks of NFL play, there are still the “Have’s” (9 teams with 9 wins or more including the Patriots) and the “Have Nots” (13 teams with 5 or less wins), who are now basically finishing out the string.  But a good portion of the league is still caught in the parity-laden middle with records ranging from 8-5 to 6-7 (10 teams, which could increase by one more if you include the 5-8 Niners, who still have a shot at the NFC West title). 

So with only three regular season games remaining for all teams, there is little time left for the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” to sort themselves out before the playoffs.  Though “mathematically” there are still a lot of teams in contention for the NFL’s remaining 11 playoff spots, I believe after Week 15, the league will have a much clearer playoff picture.  I don’t know if it is by design, but the NFL schedule makers –big Thank You to Howard Katz — must have known something as several potential playoff teams will be playing each other.  This week’s key playoff match-ups include Colts vs. Jaguars, Steelers vs. NY Jets, Giants vs. Eagles, Saints vs. Ravens, Chargers vs. Niners, Packers vs. Patriots, Falcons vs. Seahawks and Chiefs vs. Rams.

  • In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Patriots (11-2), and Falcons (11-2); The “Almost There’s” — Steelers (10-3), Saints (10-3), NY Giants (9-4) and Eagles (9-4); The “Contenders” — NY Jets (9-4), Bears (9-4), Packers (9-4), Ravens (9-4), Chiefs (8-5), and Bucs (8-5); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who better make their playoff push now or fall by the wayside — Colts (7-6), Chargers (7-6), Seahawks (6-7), Raiders (6-7), and Rams (6-7); The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Redskins (5-8), Browns (5-8), Texans (5-8) Vikings (5-8), Niners (5-8), Cardinals (4-9) and Cowboys (4-9); and lastly the “Ugly” (Already preparing their 2011 NFL Draft boards) – Broncos (3-10), Lions (3-10), Bills (3-10), Bengals (2-11), and Panthers (1-12)
  • The division standings also are very tight with 3 weeks left in the regular season. Eagles/Giants (NFC East –  4 game lead over WAS), Falcons (NFC South — 1 game lead over NO), Bears (NFC North — 1 game lead over GB), Seahawks/Rams (NFC West — 1 game lead over SF), Jags (AFC South — 1 game lead over IND), Steelers (AFC North — 1 game lead over BAL), Patriots (AFC East — 2 game lead over NYJ), Chiefs (AFC West — 1 game lead over SD/OAK)
  • Let’s talk about streaks… Every team wants to get hot down the stretch, like the 2006 Eagles team (five straight wins into the playoffs).  Some teams that are streaking toward the playoffs by stringing consecutive wins together are the Falcons (7), Saints (6), Patriots (5), Steelers (4), Giants (3) and Eagles (2).  While others that have flushed their playoff hopes away with losing streaks are the Bengals (10), Panthers (7), Titans (6), Broncos (4) and Redskins (3)

Though the weather is cold in most NFL cities, the action on the gridiron has definitely heated up as teams are frantically trying to clinch division titles, home field advantage, first round byes, and playoff berths.  So buckle-up for a highly anticipated Week 15 including several marquee match-ups.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Patriots (11-2); LW1 – The Patriots must be part “Ski Patrol” as they have no problem revving up they high-octane offense in bad conditions.  After shellacking the Chicago Bears in snowy Soldier Field, Brady and Belichick are now 10-0 in the snow for their career.  Next up is another potential playoff test as New England host the suddenly struggling Green Bay Packers in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football.

2.  Falcons (11-2); LW3 – Atlanta did what you are supposed to do to bad teams, as they never gave the struggling Panthers a chance to breathe in a road blowout win in Carolina.  Quarterback Matt Ryan and his fellow offensive superstars (Turner, White, and Gonzalez) will need to focus on the frenetic Seahawks when they travel to the Northwest in Week 15.

3.  Steelers (10-3); LW6 — Led by safety Troy Polamulu, there was no chance of a trap-game as the Steelers never let the struggling Bengals gain confidence in a rainy day win.  In a potential AFC playoff match-up, Big Ben and the Steelers will hope to not be tripped-up by the “angry” visiting New York Jets.

4.  Saints (10-3); LW4 – Who Dat, Who Dat…Very quietly the defending Super Bowl champs are just going about their business by putting up win after win (5) including easily disposing the NFC West leading Rams.  In Week 15, we will learn just how ready the Saints and QB Drew Brees are for the playoffs when New Orleans travels outside of their dome to face the Baltimore Ravens.

5.  Eagles (9-4); LW6 –  I tell you what… the Eagles love playing in primetime as they are now 5-0 in evening games after outlasting NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys, on SNF.  The Birds will look for more Vick – Jackson Big Play Magic when they travel to the Meadowlands for an “All In” battle with Big Blue for the top spot in the NFC East.

6.  Ravens (9-4); LW7 – By no means was it Picasso, but the Ravens showed their resiliency in finally conquering the offensive-minded Houston Texans in overtime on Monday Night Football.  After Week 15, we will know exactly what type of team Baltimore is (Upper Echelon AFC Team or Wildcard Hanger-on) when they host the red-hot New Orleans Saints.

7.  New York Giants (9-4); LW11 – After a Lewis & Clark odyssey that saw the G-Men travel throughout the snowy Midwest, the Giants showed their resolve by running over the reeling Favre-less Vikings.  After 3 weeks of waiting, Big Blue will finally get their chance for revenge against the equally surging Eagles in a huge NFC East match-up.

8.  Jaguars (8-5); LW12 –  Looking like the re-birth of the Oklahoma Sooners’ 1980’s rushing attack (3 straight games w/ 200 rushing yards), the Jags ran up and down the field on the Raiders in a shootout win.  Everything will be on the line in WK15 when the Jaguars go searching for respect in Indy against Peyton Manning and Colts.

9.  NY Jets (9-4); LW9– What is going on with the NY Jets?  After looking like one of the NFL’s elite teams, the J-E-T-S and struggling QB Mark Sanchez “tripped” for the second straight week as the Dolphins rode their defense to a big road win.  In Week 15, it is either time to wake-up from their slumber or continue falling apart when Rex Ryan’s squad travels to Heinz Field to face the ascending Steelers.

10. Colts (7-6); LW19 – I told everyone, “Don’t count out Indy and QB Peyton Manning out just yet”.  And now they are just 3 wins away from another AFC South crown after finishing off the Texans on Thursday Night football.  I am sure Lucas Oil Stadium will be rocking when the AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars and hard-runner Maurice Jones-Drew visit for a huge division battle that will have playoff implications.

11. Bears (9-4); LW5 – I was just wondering…haven’t the Bears been a bad-weather team going back to the days of George Halas roaming the sidelines.  I guess not as the Patriots grounded-up the Bears on a snowy day in the Windy City.  Sure head coach Lovie Smith’s team is still in the NFC North driver’s seat, but they will need to play with more vigor when they visit the Minnesota Vikings – playing in the University of Minnesota’s outdoor stadium – on Monday Night Football.

12. Packers (8-5); LW10 – Oh No…this team could be in a lot of trouble if QB Aaron Rodgers (2nd concussion this season) is out of the line-up for an extended amount of time.  The Lions, lead by DT N. Suh, first knocked-out Rodgers then feasted on a Packers offense led by Matt Flynn.  In a “Save Your Season” type Game, the Packers must pick-up-the-pieces when they travel to face the red-hot Patriots.

13.  Buccaneers (8-5); LW14 – This young upstart team must have nine lives, as they survived another close game.  The Bucs left the Nation’s Capital with a win after the Redskins had too many special teams’ breakdowns.  Tampa better be prepared when the upset-minded Detroit Lions come to town for an old-time NFC Central battle.

14. Chargers (7-6); LW15 – You have to wonder if it is too much, too late for San Diego.  But the Chargers put forth a dominating effort against the suddenly struggling AFC West-leading KC Chiefs.  With an eye on winning-out, the Chargers, probably sans TE Antonio Gates (foot), will look to keep winning when they host the equally desperate Niners on Thursday Night Football.

15.  Chiefs (8-5); LW113 – I always thought that Todd Haley’s squad might be overachieving a bit and it really showed in WK14.  With backup QB Brodie Croyle filling in for starter Matt Cassel (appendectomy), KC was a big turkey devoured by the hungry Chargers.  Whether Cassel, Croyle or someone else plays quarterback in Week 15, it is now or never when the Chiefs face the Rams in a “Show Me Something” game.

16.  Dolphins (7-6); LW21 – This team may have one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but what the ‘Phins do have is a stifling defense as shown in their gutty road win over the NY Jets.  In an effort to stay in the playoff race, the Dolphins will need to “Answer the Bell” when they host AFC Spoilers, the Buffalo Bills.

17.  Rams (6-7); LW17 – This team clearly is a great story, but WK14 showed that they are not ready to run with the Big Dogs as the Saints thumped them in the Superdome.  Despite their ugly record, the Rams can still be in the driver’s seat for the NFC West, or is it the “NFC Least”, crown with a win over the Chiefs in WK15.

18. Niners (5-8); LW25 –  San Francisco showed that they still have some fight left in them as they thumped the inconsistent Seahawks in a crucial NFC West battle.  Everything will be on the line for the Chargers and Niners when they meet in a “Loser Leaves Town” match on Thursday Night Football in Week 15.

19. Raiders (6-7); LW14 – If nothing else, you cannot tell me that the Oakland Raiders are not one of the NFL’s most entertaining teams.  The Raiders’ offensive firepower, led by QB Jason Campbell and RB Darren McFadden, was on full display in a close pinball machine loss to the Jags in WK14.  With their playoff hopes flickering, the Raiders will be in a must-win situation when they host the reeling Denver Broncos in WK15.

20. Vikings (5-8); LW16 – It was an end of an era, in Detroit of all places, as veteran QB Brett Favre (shoulder, ankle) sat out a game for the first time since 1992 (297 consecutive starts, 321 w/ playoffs).  In an unexpected Monday Nighter that was moved due to the Metrodome’s roof collapsing, the Vikings were steamrolled by the NY Giants.  In a game where the starting quarterback could be rookie Joe Webb (hamstring), Favre, or the newly-signed Patrick Ramsey, the Vikings will host the Bears on MNF with the game at University of Minnesota’s frigid TCF Bank Stadium.

21.  Seahawks (6-7); LW18 – It looks like a December Swoon is taking place in another place besides Green Bay as Pete Carroll’s team is teetering on the ropes.  In WK14, Seattle was no match for the desperate Niners.  It is “Do or Die” time for the Seahawks when they host the red-hot Atlanta Falcons in WK15.

22. Browns (5-8); LW20 –  Not even running back Peyton Hillis could overcome another bad quarterbacking effort as the Bills won the “Battle for Lake Erie” over the Dawgs.  With head coach Eric Mangini’s time in Cleveland on life-support, the Browns will face the equally putrid Cincinnati Bengals in Wk15’s Toilet Bowl.

23.  Texans (5-8); LW22 – Once again, the Texans had plenty of fight in them only to see their opponent walk away with the “W”.  The Baltimore Ravens won in overtime on Monday Night Football as the Texans realized they will be home for the playoffs again.  If nothing else, QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson can help FF players win their respective leagues by putting up some stats against the reeling Titans.

24.  Cowboys (4-9); LW23 – Dallas gave a game effort on Sunday Night Football, but the visiting Eagles had too much DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick in a big NFC East road win.  With nothing else but pride on the line, the Cowboys will try to continue building interim HC Jason Garrett’s resume when they face the hated Redskins.

25. Lions (3-10); LW26 – Finally the scrappy Lions broke through and spoiled a contender’s day as DT N. Suh led the way in a physical win over the Packers.   Led by young gunslinger QB Drew Stanton, Detroit will look to make it two in a row when they travel to Tampa in WK15.

26.  Redskins (5-8); LW24– It was another heartbreaking loss for Washington, this time to the Tampa Bay Bucs as the Redskins special teams let them down.  There is nothing left to play for but stats and pride now as the Redskins travel to Dallas in WK15.

27.  Bills (3-10); LW29 – This young team is better than some give them credit for and they proved it by beating the Bowns in the Battle for Lake Erie Bowl.  Next up is a trip to South Beach to take on the tough Miami Dolphins and NFL sack leader Cameron Wake.

28.  Titans (5-8); LW26 – Tennessee put up a good fight, but in the end the Colts outlasted them in a crucial AFC South battle on Thursday Night Football.  With the future of long-tenured head coach Jeff Fisher in doubt, the Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers, will try to win one for owner Bud Adams when they host the Texans.

29.  Cardinals (3-9); LW30 – Big deal they finally put a good game together, but remember it was against the hapless Broncos in Week 14’s Toilet Bowl.  We will see if rookie John Skelton can produce another win when the Cards  play the awful Panthers in Carolina.

30.  Broncos (3-10); LW28 –  Interim head coach Eric Studesville better get his resume ready as his team was terrible in an embarrassing loss to the Cardinals.  Now I am saying, “Why Not Put in Tebow” as the Broncos are even out of the bad AFC West race.  Next up is a pride game against the hated Raiders.

31.  Bengals (2-11); LW31 – Marvin  Lewis better enjoy his last weeks as Cincy’s head coach as his team is falling apart at the seams.  The Bengals were dominated by the Steelers in another embarassing loss.  Next up is the Battle for Ohio a.k.a the Week 15 Toilet Bowl as the Bengals take on the Browns.

32.  Panthers (1-12); LW32 – It is looking more and more like the Panthers will have the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  Lame Duck head coach John Fox’s team tried hard, but the Falcons smoked them in an NFC South mismatch.  Next up the chase for Andrew Luck continues when the Panthers host Arizona in Week 15.

 

 

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

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