By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
With one month left in the season, it’s time for another edition of the Ultimate Capper “Power Rankings.” As always, it’s one man’s humble opinion, with a brief commentary on each team.
First, Second, and Third Down
1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1) – I still don’t like them on the road, but after Monday’s drubbing of New Orleans they won’t have to worry about a true road game beyond week 15 at the Meadowlands – a place they hope will also be the site of their last game of the year.
2. Denver Broncos (10-2) – They’ve beaten Kansas City twice and outplayed the Patriots for three quarters of football. They’re still the class of the AFC.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-3) – So they didn’t play well Monday night. Your point? There’s still no one beating them in the Superdome, which means they’ll be the 2-seed and play in Seattle again for the NFC championship.
4. New England Patriots (9-3) – The defense is still suspect without Wilfork and Mayo, but the offense is getting healthy and dangerous – bad news for the rest of the AFC.
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3) – If a team can run the ball and play defense, they’ll be a tough out in the postseason. I present to you exhibit A: the Carolina Panthers.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4) – It’s honestly a coin-flip from here until about 12 or 13, but Cincy pulled out a road win over the Chargers in a game where their QB didn’t play well. They get Indy this week in a big game to avoid KC in round one.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) – Suddenly the good defense has become porous and the anemic offense has awoken. If they both play well, this will be a dangerous 5-seed.
8. San Francisco 49’ers (8-4) – If they want to prove they can make another run, they absolutely need to beat Seattle at home this weekend.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5) – I don’t think they’ll win the division because I don’t think they’ll beat Dallas in Dallas in week 17, but Nick Foles is outplaying every QB not named Manning.
10. Indianapolis Colts (8-4) – They’re going to win the AFC South by default, but they need to regain their early season form if they want to be more than a one-and-done.
11. Dallas Cowboys (7-5) – If they play a half of football against Chicago, Green Bay, or Philadelphia like the first half of Thanksgiving Day against Oakland, they’ll be way too far behind to make any sort of comeback.
12. Detroit Lions (7-5) – The offense is possibly the best in the game, but their defense and in-game coaching leaves a lot to be desired. They’re not a true contender until they become significantly more consistent.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – Their defense is rounding into form and they have a championship caliber coach and QB. Imagine an AFC Divisional matchup with the Ravens in Denver…
14. Arizona Cardinals (7-5) – Questionable calls cost the Cardinals late against the Eagles, but that doesn’t make up for a pitiful offensive performance in the first half. The playoffs now require a win over San Fran in week 17 – and some help.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Sure they lost to Baltimore, but have you seen their last four games? Dolphins, Bengals, at Packers, Browns. There’s a definite shot for this team, assuming they can play well at home, to jump both Baltimore and Miami to claim the sixth seed.
16. Miami Dolphins (6-6) – This season could go either way – they should beat Buffalo and the Jets the last two weeks of the year, but it might be too late by that point. Losses to Pitt and NE in the next two games could finish the season.
17. Chicago Bears (6-6) – Playoff teams don’t lose games like the Bears did last week in Minnesota. With two head-to-head losses to Detroit, the playoffs look like a longshot again – same story, different year for Chicago.
18. San Diego Chargers (5-7) – This may be one of the best 5-7 teams I’ve ever seen. They have to be kicking themselves for blowing that opening week game to Houston right about now.
19. New York Giants (5-7) – Too little, too late for Eli and the Giants. Sadly, I think they’re actually the best, most complete team in the NFC East right now, and the only one that would have a chance to win a road playoff game.
20. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1) – Without Aaron Rodgers, this team is now 0-4-1. Think the QB position is important for the Packers?
21. St. Louis Rams (5-7) – They’re getting better and have a nice foundation, but they’re just not at the same level as the rest of the NFC’s playoff contenders.
22. Tennessee Titans (5-7) – Beating a divisional opponent would be helpful if the Titans expect to compete. An 0-4 record against the AFC South simply won’t cut it.
23. New York Jets (5-7) – If you’re looking for a team with the biggest dichotomy between offense and defense, look no further than the offensively putrid and defensively solid Jets.
24. Oakland Raiders (4-8) – Somehow I don’t think too many people will complain if CBS suddenly switches from Jets-Raiders to “Heidi” this Sunday afternoon…
25. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) – Why are they better than the teams below them with better records? Because Adrian Peterson is a Viking, that’s why.
26. Buffalo Bills (4-8) – Like the Rams, the Bills have to at least be happy with some of the foundational pieces in place, but they were expecting a little bit more from this season than they’ve gotten.
27. Cleveland Browns (4-8) – It’s a good thing most Browns fans are also Ohio State Buckeyes fans, because at least they have something to cheer about that doesn’t involve watching their once-again-inept NFL team.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9) – Don’t look now, but Greg Schiano and Mike Glennon have won 3 of 4 and may be bringing a glimmer of hope to this Bucs organization. Will either of them still be around next year to continue it?
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9) – I love that the Jags have also won 3 of 4, mostly because everything mentioned about Gus Bradley seems positive. I don’t like franchise relocations, either, so there’s a part of me that wants to see a turnaround in north Florida.
30. Washington Redskins (3-9) – Mike Shanahan would win the “first coach fired” pool if not for Gary Kubiak. The ‘Skins need to revamp their gameplan from a front office perspective if they want to get back atop the NFC East.
31. Atlanta Falcons (3-9) – They were the best team in the entire NFC last season and game up one game short of the Super Bowl. The most impressive (or depressing) part? They’re not even the biggest disappointment of the year.
32. Houston Texans (2-10) – That would be this team, losers of 10 straight games after back-to-back AFC South titles and AFC Divisional round appearances. Expect a major offseason shakeup, starting with Kubiak and Matt Schaub.
If The Playoffs Started Today…
1. Denver Broncos (10-2)
2. New England Patriots (9-3)
3. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Notes: Denver wins the first seed over Kansas City because of head-to-head victory. Indianapolis wins the third seed over Cincinnati because of better conference record (Ind 5-2, Cin 5-3). Baltimore wins the sixth seed over Miami because of head-to-head victory.
1. x-Seattle Seahawks (11-1)
2. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
3. Detroit Lions (7-5)
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3)
6. San Francisco 49’ers (8-4)
Notes: New Orleans wins the second seed over Carolina because of record against common opponents. Detroit wins the third seed over Dallas because of head-to-head victory. Dallas wins the fourth seed over Philadelphia because of head-to-head victory.
Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Thu, 8:30pm, NFLN
Line: Texans by 3
Once considered a legitimate threat to win the AFC, the Texans are now a legitimate threat to win the top overall draft pick. Seriously, if they don’t win this game they’ll almost assuredly be the worst team in the AFC at year’s end, and while there’s always a chance that Tampa, Atlanta, or Washington could wind up tied with the Texans, I still think it’s a much better bet that Houston winds up on the clock when week 17 concludes. With that in mind… go Jags!
Pick: Jacksonville 24, Houston 20
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