The latest edition of the NFL Power Rankings includes a familiar face making an MVP surge, a young coach working miracles and two newcomers from the worst division in the league.
1. Patriots (12-2); Last week: 1
The Evil Empire has now won eight consecutive AFC East titles. The scariest part? Bill Belichick’s defense is getting better by the week.
2. Cowboys (12-2); Last week: 3
Tony Romo probably should get real comfortable wearing that baseball cap on the sideline. Dak Prescott isn’t getting benched anytime soon. America’s Team will wrap up the No. 1 seed in the playoffs soon enough.
3. Steelers (9-5); Last week: 4
Big Ben & Co. might actually be who we (or at least I) thought they were: A legitimate Super Bowl contender. Pittsburgh won its fifth in a row by overcoming a sluggish start against the Bengals. A Christmas Day showdown against the Ravens awaits.
4. Seahawks (9-4-1); Last week: 6
Seattle’s offensive line is still not very good, but Pete Carroll’s defense could carry them to the Promised Land even without Earl Thomas. They’ll lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
5. Chiefs (10-4); Last week: 2
Andy Reid’s team falls three spots after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Titans. Kansas City might have blown a chance at a first-round bye.
He’s not your typical 88. Green Bay’s maligned running game got jump-started when Ty Montgomery made the switch from wide reciever to running back.
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
6. Giants (10-4); Last week: 7
The G-Men will clinch a playoff spot with a win in Philly on Thursday night. They have no semblance of offensive balance, but who cares? Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is turning into a juggernaut. Janoris Jenkins’ long-term health is paramount.
7. Raiders (11-3); Last week: 9
Guess who’s back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002? A come-from-behind win in San Diego punched Oakland’s ticket to the postseason. Now they have their sights set on a first-round bye.
8. Packers (8-6); Last week: 11
Green Bay climbs three spots after squeaking past the Bears. Aaron Rodgers is playing on one good leg and his best running back began the season as a wide receiver, but the Pack are positioned to steal the NFC North. Rodgers might wind up stealing league MVP honors too.
9. Falcons (9-5); Last week: 10
Atlanta has had back-to-back 40-points games twice this year, but they still need to fend off the Bucs before claiming the NFC South title. Julio Jones has ruined many fantasy owners’ dreams (like mine), but the all-world receiver will probably return for a Christmas Eve matchup in Carolina.
10. Lions (9-5); Last week: 5
Detroit takes the biggest tumble of the week after falling to the Giants. Mathew Stafford’s Lions are in jeopardy of gagging away a division title and playoff berth. A daunting final two games against the Cowboys and Packers await.
Andy Reid and the Chiefs might’ve let a first-round bye slip away on Sunday.
(Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images)
11. Buccaneers (9-5); Last week: 8
Tampa’s surging defense got an up close and personal look at the Cowboys’ behemoth offensive line in a primetime loss in Big D that put them a game out of the NFC South lead. Jameis Winston has a world of talent, but he needs to be much better as a pocket passer.
12. Dolphins (9-5); Last week: 14
No Ryan Tannehill, no problem. Matt Moore’s career-high four touchdown passes highlighted a primetime rout over the hapless Jets. Adam Gase is my Coach of the Year if Miami makes the playoffs.
13. Ravens (8-6); Last week: 15
Philly’s failed two-point try kept the Ravens’ division hopes alive. They can steal the AFC North by pulling off a win in Pittsburgh.
14. Titans (8-6); Last week: Not ranked
Tennessee’s miracle comeback win in Kansas City has them set up for a Week 17 showdown against the Texans with the AFC South crown at stake. The Titans will have to beat the Doug Marrone-led Jaguars first, of course, on Christmas Eve.
15. Texans (8-6); Last week: Not ranked
Bill O’Brien could no longer continue with his quarterback charade. Brock Osweiler flat-out stinks. Let’s see if Tom Savage can help them win the putrid AFC South.
MOVERS AND FAKERS: Washington tumbled out of the coveted rankings — and put its playoff hopes in serious jeopardy — with a home loss to Carolina on Monday night. The Broncos’ playoff hopes also are on life support after an inept offensive performance against the Patriots.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News