15 weeks in, this is when the Power Rankings are both easiest and hardest to make at the same time. I know that sounds a little off, but trust me, it is.
For example, how much do weight New Orleans loss? Does one loss really make them slip out of the top spot after they beat up on so many other playoff caliber teams all year?
Although Indianapolis are undefeated, should they really be placed above San Diego and New Orleans? Furthermore, why is it that when the Colts win a close game "they're walking a thin line," but when the Chargers or Saints win a close game "they're resilient, and destined?" Last I checked the Colts are the ones who have done it before, while the other two have yet to make it past the conference championship game.
How the heck are we supposed to rank the 8 teams playing for the two wild card positions in the AFC?
See what I mean? Let the debate begin.
01. New Orleans Saints - The loss to Dallas was bad, and they were outplayed. Still, it says a lot that despite being outplayed all game, they had every opportunity to win the game in the end. They're going to have home field advantage in the NFC, and they're allowed to have one slip and remain the #1 team in the NFL. At least by my standards.
02. Indianapolis Colts - They're 14-0 and with the Jets and Bills as the final two games on their schedule, you have to believe that even if they don't go all out they'll be the second 16-0 team in three years. The question is, Can they be the first 19-0? It's starting to look that way, especially if Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown can come back and make an impact. With Wayne, Collie, Garcon, Gonzalez, Addai, Brown, Mike Hart, and Dallas Clark this may be the deepest offense in NFL history.
03. San Diego Chargers - Right now they may be the best team in the NFL, but the injuries keep piling up. I think a part of that organization really regrets the slow start right now. They're going to have to be 100% to beat Indianapolis or New Orleans when it matters.
The Very Good
04. Minnesota Vikings - Vikings fans are starting to get scared. All season I (along with many others familiar with Favre's 2008 season) warned people about Favre's age, his health, his durability, etc. All of those warnings are beginning to come to fruition and this years #2 seed in the NFC are beginning to look vulnerable. They're a loss away from panic mode.
05. Arizona Cardinals - Their follow up to 2008 is a second consecutive division championship. It's going to take three great wins to get back to the Super Bowl, but if any 3-6 seed in the NFL can do it, you gotta take Arizona.They have a lot of weapons, some good defensive players, and a head coach who knows what he wants to do.
06. Philadelphia Eagles - Are they starting to look dangerous or is it just me? They're the Chargers of the NFC in my opinion; A lot of weapons, a lot of depth, but a big question mark of "can they actually win a game with mild to above average adversity?" We'll find out.
07. New England Patriots - They won another ugly game. Brady looked average, Moss looked good. We know the deal with team, in order for them to win the Super Bowl they're going to have to learn to win games against good teams on the road (and maybe get about three years younger on average).
08. Cincinnati Bengals - The loss to the Chargers hurts, and they've fallen from potential #2 seed to probably #4 seed. Carson Palmer hasn't looked great, but they still played San Diego well in San Diego. Can they beat the Colts, Chargers, or Patriots when it matters though?
09. Dallas Cowboys - The win against the Saints saved their season, and brought some respect back to the Cowboys locker room. Now it's time for the Cowboys to finish and win at
Washington this week. This is a team no one wants to be in the playoffs, the question is can they get there?
10. Baltimore Ravens - They're back in the top 10, and they look like a playoff team. I really like Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. This team always finds a way to get it done in the draft. They've become a model franchise.
11. Green Bay Packers - A tough, tough loss to the Steelers. The defense can't play like that if they intend on winning in the playoffs (especially against Arizona or Philly). It looks like they're going to be in the playoffs, but I can't really see them doing any damage when they get there. Based on the recent history of the NFC playoffs, that would mean this team is headed to Miami.
Hanging In There
12. New York Giants - They put a spanking on a Redskins team that was playing good lately. Their remaining schedule is tough (Carolina, @ Minnesota), but it may actually be more favorable than Dallas' (@ Washington, Philadelphia). If they want to make it to the playoffs they're going to have to win back to back games.
13. Denver Broncos - Yes, they lost to the Raiders. Yes, they're still in control of their own playoff fate. If they can beat the Chiefs they'll secure it. The real question is, does this team belong in the playoffs?
14. Pittsburgh Steelers - A big win and just like that the Steelers are back in it. Now if only they didn't lose to the Raiders and Browns. If this team gets in the playoffs, expect the Chargers more than anyone else to be afraid of seeing them. This team can beat any team in the league.
15. Tennessee Titans - After an 0-6 start they have effectively gotten themselves to .500. And there's still time to get to 9-7. Unfortunately for them they have head to head losses with a bunch of the contending teams, and therefore will likely be watching the playoffs. If they get in, expect Belichick and Brady to [poop] bricks all week. Remember that snow game where New England ran up the score? Payback would be a [female dog].
16. Miami Dolphins - Their season was defined by the loss to the Titans. The word heart comes to mind. They're close to being a really good team, but they're not there yet. The AFC East is going to be a division to watch in the next decade, and the Dolphins are going to contend for a while.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars - You can't blame a team for playing their hearts out and losing. Luckily for the Jaguars, the Jets, Dolphins, and Broncos all lost. If the Jaguars can win out, they'll probably be in the playoffs. Do they belong in the playoffs? That's a different question. And besides, do we really need another Jacksonville @ New England game? We've gotten two forgettable playoff contests with the name since 2005.
18. New York Jets - The loss to the Falcons was brutal. Mark Sanchez looked awful. It's alarming how bad he's looked since the beginning of the regular season. The name Ryan Leaf comes to mind as a parallel (in terms of rookie performances). If Roethlisberger, Young, Flacco, and Ryan wrote the book on why you should start a rookie, Mark Sanchez is effectively doing everything possible to re-write it. He could have used that extra year at USC, no doubt about it.
19. Houston Texans - It's important to note that at the moment they rank 8th of the 8 teams vying for two playoff spots in terms of tie-breaker. They lost too many close ones, and a lot of games they should have won, hence they'll probably be watching the playoffs. They're hanging in there, though. You have to respect that.
20. Carolina Panthers - They dominated the Vikings in the second half. I really don't want to see Steve Smith or Julius Peppers in different uniforms in 2010, but there's a great chance at least one of them will be. They're both elite players at their positions.
21. Atlanta Falcons - They're still trying. You have to love that. The win against the Jets was exactly what the Falcons needed to prepare themselves for 2010. A lot of question marks surround this team though, and to be honest, even before his injury, Matt Ryan didn't look much better than he was in 2008.
22. San Francisco 49ers - You feel bad calling them the 22nd best team in the NFL, but it's really all they are. They're not good enough to beat teams like Philly or Indy yet. They can play them close, but they can't beat them.
23. Buffalo Bills - Give them credit, they're playing hard. They're still going to tear down the roster and front office, but at least they're not pathetic.
24. Oakland Raiders - Don't look now but the Raiders are getting hot to end the season. Usually teams that end their season hot carry it over to the next season. If they can get a QB (Jason Campbell maybe?) they're going to contend in the AFC in 2010. The defense is very good, the running backs are very good, the wide receivers can be very good. This team isn't as far from getting back to the Super Bowl as you would think.
25. Washington Redskins - When you finally thought they were showing signs of heart they go out and pull off a loss like that to the Giants. That was disgusting to watch from a Redskins standpoint. The Hunter Smith fake field goal is easily the worst play of the year. Arguably all time.
26. Chicago Bears - Arguably the most mundane 2009 of any team. They came in with a lot of expectations, a new QB, and a stout defense. The defense has looked bad, and the QB looks worse. There's a lot to figure out in Chicago, and I think it's time for a new head coach.
27. Cleveland Browns - They put together back to back wins and they're starting to gain some respect around the league. It'll still be a little while longer before this team contends again, but I think you need to give Mangini another year.
28. Seattle Seahawks - Thing are worse in Seattle than they would like you to believe. There is a reason Holmgren chose Cleveland over Seattle.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - What is there to really say about this team? Nothing of note, really. I'd guess they start over (again) in 2010. Josh Freeman will stay.
30. Kansas City Chiefs - This team is falling fast. Suddenly I'm starting to believe they made the wrong coaching, GM, and QB decisions. Wait, like most football fans, I believed that back in the Spring. This team should do all they can to keep Brodie Croyle in town because Matt Cassell Cinderella story is ending fast.
31. Detroit Lions - Judging by how bad Mark Sanchez has looked behind a great offensive line, with an elite defense, and solid skill position players, I think the Lions made the right choice. Even if Stafford turns out to be the next Marc Bulger, Sanchez looks like he's going to be the next Cade McNown. Harsh? Needless to say the 2009 Lions were never supposed to be higher than #30 in the power rankings.
32. St. Louis Rams - Steven Jackson has been a trooper all year. They should reward him with either a lofty contract extension, or a trade to an AFC team. New England, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Houston Texans all make a lot of sense. He's worth a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Ndamakong Suh jerseys will be on sale in April. I know a few Rams fans who will invest in those.