NFL Power Rankings Week 14: Patriots Beat Lifeless Rams
The Los Angeles Rams are just one team making a move in the 2016 NFL Power Rankings Week 14 edition, and it isn’t a good move.
The Los Angeles Rams loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday has head coach Jeff Fisher’s team moving down the 2016 NFL Power Rankings Week 14 edition.
The Rams weren’t expected to do much against the Patriots in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium, and Los Angeles delivered on those expectations.
No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff struggled mightily as he faced pressure from the Patriots’ pass-rush all game. As is normally the case, the Rams offensive line did a bad job protecting its quarterback and running back Todd Gurley gained just 38 yards on the ground.
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As a whole, the Rams offense totaled 162 yards and Goff, who was sacked four times, threw for 161 yards and one touchdown to two picks.
Want a silver lining? Goff’s picks came on a pass that was tipped up by a Rams receiver and the other was a result of his arm being hit as he threw. Aside from that, there wasn’t much to be happy about with the rookie completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
Let’s take a look at where the rest of the league stands following the Week 13 action.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)
It was another week of more of the same for the Browns in Week 12. Cleveland hung in there with the Giants and was down by just one score going into the fourth quarter, however Josh McCown and the team’s offense was unable to do enough to erase that deficit. Instead, the Giants got a defensive touchdown from defensive Jason Pierre-Paul, and later closed the game out with a touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. A single score in the fourth quarter on a throw from McCown to Corey Coleman simply wasn’t enough to get the Browns out of the cellar.
The Browns are on a bye in Week 13, which means they can’t lose, so they have that going for them. McCown’s lackluster play only reinforces the fact that the Browns will give Robert Griffin III a look before season’s end. There also stands a chance that we see Cody Kessler again as head coach Hue Jackson continues to evaluate his roster for next season. As far as a win is concerned, the Browns’ best chance might be in Week 14 against a Bengals team that is going nowhere. Perhaps the Browns can catch the Bengals asleep at the wheel, but rest assured Cincy will be motivated to avoid being the first team to lose to the Browns. At this point, getting out of the No. 32 spot would be a major accomplishment for this bunch.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-11)
The San Francisco 49ers showed no signs of life against the Chicago Bears in Week 13. Head coach Chip Kelly’s offense managed just two field goals and 147 yards of offense on Sunday. There was even a Blaine Gabbert sighting, as quarterback Colin Kaepernick was benched after completing 1-of-5 passes for a depressing four yards, and he was sacked five times. That’s right, Kaepernick had more pass attempts than yards. Gabbert didn’t fare much better after completing 4-of-10 throws for 35 yards. The loss was the Niners’ 11th straight and if not for the Browns, the Niners would be the undisputed worst team in the league.
Things are getting really interesting in San Fran, but not for any good reasons. Reports came out Sunday morning that Kaepernick would likely opt out of his current deal at the end of the season and test free agency, which was bad timing considering his horrific effort against the Bears. Kaepernick had actually started to somewhat make his case for keeping the job before his stinker in Week 13.
It’s unclear where Kelly will go from here behind center, but both of the team’s quarterbacks don’t seem to have much of a future with the Niners beyond this season. Kelly will have to choose which signal-caller will play out the string.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
Jacksonville will take a slide down one spot in the power rankings this week after a 20-10 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Blake Bortles continued his trend of poor play and threw two picks and totaled just 181 yards through the air. The Jags had plenty of opportunities to win this game thanks to Broncos QB Paxton Lynch’s nightmare performance, but the Jags still found a way to lose and the lack of a passing attack continues to haunt this young team.
It appears nothing is going to get better for the Jaguars this season. Sure, the playoffs have been out of reach for quite some time now, however Jaguars fans would at least like to see some improvement from their young stars. No such improvement has happened and Jacksonville looks set to sleepwalk through the rest of the 2016 campaign, as it has all year long.
Head coach Gus Bradley will be escorted out the door the day the season is over and from there it’s anyone’s guess where the Jags will go for a new head coach. Former Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin’s name has been floated around in recent days and he could be a candidate for the position. Certainly the Jags couldn’t do any worse than the unacceptable play we’ve seen from them this season, and Coughlin might be the guy the Jags need to give this young team some direction.
29. Chicago Bears (3-9)
Well, the Bears are movin’ on up this week, albeit just one spot. Chicago took care of business at home against the Niners, with a little help from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who completely you know what the bed on Sunday. The Bears got an elite effort from running back Jordan Howard, including 117 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Holdover signal-caller Matt Barkley did enough to get the win, but he isn’t making any strides to earn the starting job for any longer than the rest of this season.
While there’s no playoffs to compete for, the Bears can play major spoilers down the stretch. Granted, the Bears have a ton of injuries and are limited on talent, however matchups against the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in the last four weeks of the season at least make things a bit interesting. Chicago will hope it can get healthy in time for next season on defense and the running game appears to have been figured out, but the Bears still must decide what to do at quarterback and receiver. Reports have differed as to what the Bears want to do with Jay Cutler, and wideout Alshon Jeffery, who is currently suspended, is an impending free agent.
28. New York Jets (3-8) (Play on MNF)
The New York Jets are coming off a Week 12 performance that saw them play a close game against the New England Patriots. Gang Green was down by just a field goal going into the fourth quarter, but Tom Brady and company were able to do enough to pick up the win. For the Jets, it was another disappointing loss in a season full of them and was just the latest step to what could be a major shakeup after the season.
Head coach Todd Bowles’ squad will play host to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13 on Monday Night Football. The only shot the Jets have is if their defense plays at a great level like it did against the Pats, however that’s a tall order considering how bad the Jets’ secondary has been. Quarterback Andrew Luck can pick defenses apart with the best of them and the Jets can’t afford to get into a shootout because this team clearly isn’t build to win a game like that. Perhaps knowing they can play spoilers versus a Colts team that is competing for the AFC South will motivate the Jets to give a little extra. Regardless, it’ll be tough sledding on Monday night.
27. Los Angeles Rams (4-8)
Offense continues to be a problem for the Los Angeles Rams following a 26-10 loss to the Patriots. Yep, there’s that 10-point effort again. Jared Goff was overmatched by a Patriots defense that sacked him four times. The Rams’ offensive line was unable to thwart the constant pressure New England was bringing, which is evident by looking at Goff completing just 14-of-32 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown to two picks.
On the bright side, one of those picks was a tipped pass that should have been caught, while the other was on a play where a Patriots defense got a piece of Goff’s arm as he threw the ball. Running back Todd Gurley still couldn’t get anything going, and if not for a 66-yard strike from Goff to Kenny Britt in garbage time, the Rams would have had just a field goal.
Even a 4-8 record is misleading for the Rams; the team is actually worse than that and benefitted from 3-1 start. Despite being on their way to a fifth losing season under head coach Jeff Fisher, the team reportedly signed him to a contract extension through the 2018 season. It’s a mind-boggling move by an organization that has officially become a laughingstock, and Fisher will successfully top the list of most losses by a head coach in NFL history while with the Rams. Things keep getting worse in Los Angeles and games like the one in Week 13 just reinforce how much Fisher needs to go.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1)
Just when everyone on the planet had written the Cincinnati Bengals off, head coach Marvin Lewis’ team comes out and blows the doors off the Philadelphia Eagles. Cincy saw a spirited effort from quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns. It was especially important for Dalton to come up big, as the Bengals’ ground game totaled just 80 yards on 33 carries between running backs Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead, and Dalton himself. The Bengals defense showed up as well, forcing three interceptions from the arm of quarterback Carson Wentz. It might be too little to late, but it did spoil things for whatever playoff hopes the Eagles had left.
The Bengals are hanging on by a thread for the division and it will take a miracle of epic proportions to make it happen. A victory for the Baltimore Ravens means the Bengals won’t gain any ground on first place, further crushing whatever hopes Cincinnati had. The Bengals have a chance to get a winning streak going next week against the winless Browns, but there also lies the chance that Lewis and company can be the first team to lose to the worst squad in the NFL. Beyond that, the Bengals have meetings with divisional rivals like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens, so they can still have some say as to who wins the AFC North even though it’s out of reach.
25. Carolina Panthers (4-8)
The 2016 season was officially buried on Sunday night for the Carolina Panthers, as the Seattle Seahawks stomped them into the ground. Quarterback Cam Newton surprisingly started of the game on the bench, which was reportedly part of a disciplinary action handed out by head coach Ron Rivera. So, Derek Anderson pulled a Derek Anderson and threw a touchdown on his only drive of the game. Newton was then inserted behind center and didn’t do any better after completing under 50 percent of his passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Panthers didn’t show up and found itself getting destroyed before the first half was even over.
Things have gone from bad to worse for the Panthers and it’s astounding at how quickly things have unraveled for last year’s NFC champs. In last place in the NFC South, the Panther have nothing to play for but pride at this point. Even that might not be a concern for this team considering how badly they got beaten at home against the Seahawks. We’ll see if the Panthers actually show up the rest of the season, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers remaining.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
The Philadelphia Eagles desperately needed to win on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive, but it looked like Philly was just playing out the string. Head coach Doug Pederson’s team got crushed by a Bengals squad that was supposed to be dead in the water. Quarterback Carson Wentz had to throw 60 passes with the team trailing for most of the game, and he added three interceptions to his stat line. To be quite honest, it was never really close. Without A.J. Green in the lineup, the Bengals still burned the Eagles for 332 passing yards and over 400 yards of offense overall.
It’s hard to imagine the Eagles coming back from this, even though they still remain in the hunt for the playoffs. The division has been a wrap for Philly for weeks now, but the wild card is still within reach, albeit barely. The loss now means the Eagles have to jump a handful of teams and things are looking bleak, especially for a team that can’t generate offense to save its life right now. Next up for the Eagles will be the Redskins, who are also now on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
23. San Diego Chargers (5-7)
The San Diego Chargers’ playoff hopes took a huge hit in Week 13 after a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Head coach Mike McCoy’s team had a 21-17 lead going into the fourth quarter, but failed to score a single point in the final frame. Quarterback Phillip Rivers threw two costly picks in the game, one of which was returned for a touchdown when the Chargers were deep in their own zone. The 11 unanswered points the Bucs scored in the fourth quarter made the difference in this one and the Chargers went down without a fight for their seventh loss of the season, and the team’s second in three games.
With the loss, the Chargers fell to three games behind the Broncos for the final playoff spot and all but assured they won’t be going to the playoffs this season with just four games left to play. Two of the Chargers’ last four games will be against AFC West opponents, but at this point San Diego will be playing spoilers at best as the season winds down. Another season without the playoffs will likely be the fatal blow to the McCoy era in San Diego and it’ll be back to the drawing board once the season is over.
22. New Orleans Saints (5-7)
The New Orleans Saints came into Week 13 red hot after a 49-point effort against the Rams last week. Things didn’t go as well in Week 14 against the Lions. Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints offense put up 369 yards offense, including 326 from the arm of Brees. The biggest problem was the three picks Brees tossed and a non-existent running game that gained 50 yards on just 12 carries.
The Saints defense had no answer for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns. The backbreaker in this one came in the fourth quarter when Stafford hit Golden Tate for a sick 66-yard score to give the Lions a two-possession lead that ended up being too much for the Saints to overcome.
Head coach Sean Payton’s team was lucky to keep pace with the Falcons, who lost to the Chiefs on Sunday. The Saints are two games behind the Falcons and Bucs for the division lead and final wild card spot, respectively. New Orleans still has two games left with the Bucs and a season finale with the Falcons but must win out in order to have a chance to catch either. The Saints will get the Bucs this week.
21. Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Head coach Rex Ryan’s team found themselves with a two-score lead in the third quarter against the AFC-leading Oakland Raiders, but squandered their opportunity for an upset win. After two scores to open the second half, the Buffalo Bills became stagnant on offense and failed to score the rest of the game. In that time, the Raiders marched their way back and finished off the Bills with 29 unanswered points. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s interception early in the fourth quarter halted any hopes the Bills had at a comeback, and the Raiders sealed the deal with a touchdown of their own on the next possession.
The best-case scenario for the Bills now is to finish above .500, which will take a 3-1 stretch to accomplish. As it stands now, the Bills would have to jump the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Miami Dolphins before even sniffing the Broncos for the final wild card spot. To make things worse, the Bills trail the Broncos by two games. Up next for Buffalo will be a difficult matchup with the Steelers’ explosive offense. The only thing that might be able to save Ryan’s job now is a strong finish from his team that results in a wing record, which is possible with games against the Browns, Miami Dolphins and Jets in the final three weeks.
20. Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1)
Week 13 was a must-win game for the struggling Arizona Cardinals and head coach Bruce Arians’ team answered the bell. The Cardinals and Washington Redskins went back-and-forth all game, but a fourth quarter score by running back David Johnson gave the Cardinals the lead for good. The Redskins were driving late in the fourth quarter down by eight, but quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a game-ending interception to end the potential game-tying drive. There was no play in this game more clutch than the 42-yard strike from quarterback Carson Palmer to wideout J.J. Nelson, which forced the Redskins to have to drive for a touchdown to tie with under two minutes, as opposed to a field goal to win the game.
The win snapped the Cards’ two-game losing streak, but there is still an uphill climb to the playoffs. Arizona has to jump four teams to get the final playoff spot owned by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the moment, and the Seattle Seahawks win on Sunday night keep the NFC West leaders comfortably ahead. It’s going to take a monumental effort from the Cardinals to make the playoffs this season, as running the table is a necessity. In Week 14 the Cardinals will get the Miami Dolphins, with games against the Saints, Seahawks and Rams to follow.
19. Green Bay Packers (6-6)
In an ugly, snowy day in Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers notched a huge win over the AFC South leader, the Houston Texans. Despite conditions not being ideal, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 20-of-30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while Ty Montgomery resurfaced to lead the team in rushing. The biggest story was the Packers defense that bottled up Lamar Miller and the Texans ground game, and quarterback Brock Osweiler couldn’t get much going against Green Bay’s embattled secondary.
The Packers now find themselves on a two-game winning streak and appear to be righting the ship at the right time. Head coach Mike McCarthy’s team only gained ground on the second place Vikings with the first place Lions beating the Saints in Week 13. Green Bay is now two games back of the Lions for the division and just one behind the Bucs for the last wild card spot. Week 14 will be a tough game against the Seattle Seahawks, and after that the Packers have three more games against division opponents, including a Week 17 showdown with the Lions. At this point, the Packers are just happy to have options with the way this season has gone.
18. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
NFL teams can’t win if they don’t score points and the Minnesota Vikings have found that out firsthand this season. Despite a great defensive effort that shut the Dallas Cowboys down all night, the Vikings offense was unable to do enough to win this game. The Vikings barely broke 300 yards of total offense and while that was more than the Cowboys, Minnesota killed itself with penalties that were impossible to overcome. Even with all that being said, the Vikings found themselves with a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but failed to convert when Bradford horribly overthrew his receiver after a blow to the head from a defender that was missed by the referees.
Trailing the Bucs by only one game for the final wild card spot and the Lions by two games for the division, the Vikings still have a chance to make the playoffs even though they’ve lost their last two games. It’ll be a tall task, though, as the Vikings can’t generate enough offense or points on defense to remain a contender to play beyond Week 17. Minnesota doesn’t have a single team on its remaining schedule with a winning record and will meet the Jaguars in Week 14.
17. Tennessee Titans (6-6) (BYE)
The Tennessee Titans entered their bye week with a .500 record and coming off a win in Week 12 against the Bears. The Titans gained some ground even though they didn’t play, as the Texans lost their game to the Packers and now only own a tiebreaker over the Titans for first place. If the Colts win on Monday Night Football against the Jets, all three teams will have the sam record and the Colts will control their own destiny. Regardless, the Titans will still be well within in striking distance to take the division.
Head coach Mike Mularkey’s team will get back into action in Week 14 in a tough game against the Broncos. Thankfully for the Titans, the Broncos can be exploited on the ground and Tennessee has an elite rushing attack that can take advantage of that. The Titans can only hope they get a look at Paxton Lynch, who had a miserable showing in Week 13 in place of the injured Trevor Siemian. Looking ahead, the Titans will have to finish with a better record than the Colts in order to win the division after losing the season series to Indy, and will have to do so while navigating a remaining schedule that features three games with teams owning a .500 or better record.
16. Indianapolis Colts (5-6) (Play on MNF)
The Indianapolis Colts will look to rebound in Week 13 after a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. The Colts were without quarterback Andrew Luck, who was forced to sit with a concussion he suffered the week prior. Backup signal-caller Scott Tolzien was unable to convert on some of the games bigger plays and his receivers didn’t help him with some key drops. It was clear the Colts were badly missing their star player in what otherwise could have been a close game the Colts might have won.
Monday Night Football will pit the Colts against the Jets, a team that is playing out the string at this point. Gang Green’s secondary has been getting burnt all season long and Luck should be able to exploit that en route to a big evening. With a loss by the Texans on Sunday, the Colts now control their own destiny in the AFC South and can take possession of first place with a win over the Jets, and then the Texans in Week 14. Even if the Titans can win their game against the Broncos, the Colts will still have the advantage thanks to winning the season series against Tennessee. After the Jets and Texans, the Colts have games against the Vikings, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars remaining.
15. Houston Texans (6-6)
Another week, another dreadful performance by the Houston Texans offense. Quarterback Brock Osweiler and company failed to score a single point in the first half and trailed 7-0 going into the third quarter. The Texans finally got on the board in the third frame with a touchdown pass from Osweiler to tight end Ryan Griffin, but Green Bay went on to score 14 unanswered points after that, which proved to be the difference in the Texans’ 21-13 loss to the Packers. It was a waste of what was otherwise a great defensive showing by the Texans.
Regardless of what happens in the Colts-Jets game on Monday night, the Texans will remain in first place thanks to their wins over the Titans and Colts earlier in the season. The Titans are right behind the Texans and have the same record, while the Colts could also pull even with the Texans should they defeat the Jets. If that does happen, Houston will be battling for first place in the division against the Colts in Week 14, and a meeting with the Titans is looming in Week 17. The Texans are going to have a rough time securing this division if their punchless offense continues playing the way it is. The Texans might be in first in the standings, but they have the third worst offense in the division.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
Don’t look now, but the Buccaneers are a playoff team! That’s right, the Bucs’ 28-21 win over the Chargers in Week 13 propelled them to the final playoff spot in the NFC. Tampa Bay erased a 14-7 deficit quickly in the third quarter with 10 unanswered points on the strength of a field goal and a Lavonte David pick six before the Chargers came back with a touchdown of their own. The Bucs then went on to score 11 points in the fourth and their defense totally shut down Rivers and the Chargers after taking their final lead with nine minutes left to play. The Chargers had their chance to tie things up, but a Rivers interception ended that hope on the team’s final drive.
Not only are the Bucs in a wild card spot, but they’re also tied with the Falcons for first place. Tampa Bay won’t meet Atlanta again the rest of the way (they split the season series 1-1), but have three divisional games left on the schedule, with two against the Saints and one against the Panthers. Aside from their game against the Cowboys in Week 15, the Bucs have three games against losing teams to close things out. Regardless, the Bucs have control of their own destiny and that’s all this young team can ask for.
13. Miami Dolphins (7-5)
The bloom came off the rose big time for the Miami Dolphins in Week 13. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco torched the Dolphins defense for 381 yards and four touchdowns, while the Dolphins offense failed to establish itself at all in this game. The Ravens defense was sensational and the Dolphins only mustered up 277 total yards of offense. It also didn’t help that Ryan Tannehill tossed three picks, one of which was turned into points later on. The loss snapped the Dolphins’ impressive six-game winning streak and put a dent in their momentum for a playoff run.
The Dolphins failed to keep pace with the New England Patriots, who beat the Rams on Sunday. Head coach Adam Gase’s team is all but finished in the AFC East and now have to hope for a wild card spot to get into the playoffs. Thankfully for the Dolphins, only one game separates them from having the same record as the Broncos and three of the four games left for Miami are against teams with a .500 record or worse. One of those teams below .500, the Cardinals, will be the Dolphins’ Week 14 opponent. After that the Dolphins have one game against each divisional foe before the regular season comes to an end.
12. Washington Redskins (6-5-1)
A back-and-forth battle with the Cardinals didn’t end well for the Redskins. After a late touchdown pass by Cardinals signal-caller Carson Palmer, Washington found itself down by eight points with under two minutes left to play. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was driving down the field and looked primed to even this game up with the ball on Arizona’s 28-yard line, however his pass to wide receiver Jamison Crowder was intercepted by cornerback Patrick Peterson to end the game.
Washington is now on the outside looking in following Sunday’s loss. The Bucs took care of business in their game and jumped over the Redskins for the final playoff spot in the NFC. Luckily for Washington, it’s schedule is favorable over the last four weeks of the season. Matchups with the Eagles, Panthers and Bears make up the Redskins’ next three games before a season finale against the New York Giants in Week 17. A game against the Eagles is just what the doctor ordered for the Redskins to bounce back in Week 14, as Philly is in the midst of crashing and burning. All it will take for the Redskins to get back into a wild card spot is a win and a Bucs loss next week, so these two teams could easily flip places again when Week 14 is said and done.
11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
The Atlanta Falcons dug themselves a hole in Week 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs and nearly climbed out of it. Atlanta was down 27-16 going into the fourth quarter and answered with two touchdowns to take a late 28-27 lead. Just when it looked like the Falcons were going to escape with a win in a close game against the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Matt Ryan threw a costly pick on a two-point conversion that was returned by Eric Berry to the house for two. It ended up being the game-winning play in what was a failed comeback attempt for the Falcons.
Next up for the Falcons is a matchup with the lowly Rams. Despite the Rams having a solid defense, their offense is completely inept and it won’t take much from the Falcons offense to win that game. With the Falcons losing and the Bucs winning in Week 13, Tampa Bay now shares first place with the Falcons and things are getting really interesting in the NFC South. Beyond this week’s matchup with the Rams, the Falcons have a favorable schedule with games agains the Niners, Panthers and Saints in the last three weeks of the season.
10. New York Giants (8-4)
While their defense has been playing great this season, the New York Giants offense continues to sputter. Quarterback Eli Manning finished with under 200 yards through the air and one of his two picks were turned into points on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ next drive. The Giants found the end zone just once before a garbage time touchdown late in the fourth when the game was already decided. It was a valiant effort on behalf of the Giants’ defense, but it was wasted nonetheless by an offense that can’t find any kind of consistency.
The G-Men continue to be a frustrating bunch. At the start of the season, fans were excited about what looked like a great offense, but things certainly haven’t gone as planned. The Giants are playing down to their opponents and couldn’t crack a Steelers defense that is far from elite. Things aren’t getting any easier for the Giants with a game against the Dallas Cowboys coming up. Even if the Giants win that game, the Cowboys will still have a comfortable lead in the division and have already wrapped up their spot in the playoffs. The best bet for the Giants to make the playoffs has been and will continue to be the wild card.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
A combination of great defense and enough offense helped the Steelers edge the Giants on Sunday. Pittsburgh’s defensive unit held New York to under 250 total yards and picked off quarterback Eli Manning twice. On offense, tight end Ladarius Green had his best game with the Steelers after corralling six passes for 110 yards and a touchdown from the arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With the Steelers so short at wide receiver, Green’s emergence will be huge the rest of the way. Le’Veon Bell continued to show why he’s one of the best in the league at his position after he put the finishing touches on the game with a big fourth quarter.
Nothing changed in the AFC North, as the Ravens also won their game against the Dolphins. The two teams are still neck and neck for the division and it will likely come down to the Week 16 game in Pittsburgh. Before then, the Steelers have to take care of business against the Bills and Bengals, and will close out the season with a gift game against the last place Browns. Only the Ravens have a winning record of the teams remaining on Pittsburgh’s schedule, so things are certainly looking favorable for the head coach Mike Tomlin’s group.
8. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
Sunday proved to be a major statement win for the Baltimore Ravens after utterly dismantling one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Joe Flacco went off for 381 yards and four touchdowns and the Ravens defense picked Ryan Tannehill off three times. After shutting out the Dolphins in the first half, the Ravens cruised in the second half and finished this one with a 38-6 victory, ending Miami’s six-game winning streak. Baltimore has now won four of its last five and is looking more and more like a playoff team after starting the season 3-4.
The Week 13 win over the Dolphins was particularly big considering the Pittsburgh Steelers won their game with the New York Giants to keep pace in the AFC North. The Ravens still own the tiebreaker with both teams having the same record. We’ll get a good idea of just how good the Ravens are, as a matchup with the New England Patriots is coming in Week 14. After giving the Dallas Cowboys a run for their money in Week 11, there is reason for optimism in Baltimore for this week. The Ravens also have a game with the Steelers left on the schedule, so this division could come down to that Week 16 game.
7. Detroit Lions (8-4)
The Detroit Lions’ Week 13 game against the Saints was supposed to be a high-scoring affair, but head coach Jim Caldwell’s defense had other ideas. New Orleans only managed to score 13 points at home versus a Detroit defense that gets no respect, and the Lions also intercepted three Drew Brees passes. A touchdown early in the fourth quarter pulled the Saints to within six, but the Lions scored the game’s final nine points and picked off Brees on the Saints’ final drive to officially end things for good.
With a two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers, the Lions have opened up a comfortable lead for themselves with four games left to play. The Lions aren’t out of the woods yet, however, as games with the Giants, Cowboys and Packers remain in the final three weeks of the season. Week 14 will be the easiest game left on the schedule for the Lions with the Bears coming to town. It’s a game the Lions should win and it becomes even more important when you consider the tough stretch of games to follow. When comparing them to the Vikings and Packers, the Lions look like the most complete team in the division at the moment and have earned the right to be where they are.
6. Denver Broncos (8-4)
It’s safe to say the Denver Broncos don’t have much hope for quarterback Paxton Lynch moving forward. In place of the injured Trevor Siemian, Lynch completed 50 percent of his passes for 104 yards and no touchdowns. As a whole, the offense gained just 204 yards, but still managed to top the Jaguars on the strength of a 51-yard pick six by Bradley Roby that put the Broncos up by two scores. The Jaguars would score early in the fourth quarter to bring their deficit to seven, but the Broncos defense was able to hold Jacksonville out of the end zone for the remainder of the fourth quarter for the win.
A win by the Chiefs will keep the Broncos in third place in the AFC West, however Denver keeps its place as the final wild card team and now has some breathing room with a loss by the Dolphins. Up next for the Broncos is a matchup with the Titans and it’s one Denver can definitely win. The only problem is Lynch has been dreadful and as bad as Siemian has been, he’s a major upgrade over the rookie quarterback. Head coach Gary Kubiak’s team must have Siemian healthy the rest of the way or else the playoffs could slip from its grasp.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a thrilling victory in Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Chiefs were down 28-27 with the Falcons needing a two-point conversion to give them a field goal lead. On the try, quarterback Matt Ryan threw an interception into the hands of Eric Berry and the cornerback returned it 99 yards to give KC two points and ultimately, the win. The Chiefs played bend but don’t break defense all day and their offense was good enough to keep pace with the Falcons, and Berry’s clutch play was enough to earn the win.
Despite their issues on offense, the Chiefs continue to win games and have now emerged victorious in their last two contests. Not only did the Chiefs keep their wild card spot and second place position in the division, but they are now setup for an AFC West battle with the Raiders in Week 14 that will be for first place. Having already beat the Raiders this season, the Chiefs could be in a position to control their own destiny should they beat their division rival again. And, on top of that, the Chiefs would be in line for a first-round bye and quite possibly home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
4. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
The Seahawks bounced back in a big way in Week 13 after thrashing the Panthers in a 40-7 blowout win. Running back Thomas Rawls broke 100 yards and scored twice, while the Seahawks offense as a whole dominated to the tune of 534 yards of total offense. On the flip side, Seattle’s defense was it’s elite self and held Cam Newton and the Panthers offense to just 271 total yards. This was exactly the kind of game the Seahawks needed after not showing up last week against the Bucs.
Seattle’s three-game lead remains intact after the win on Sunday and the division is all but wrapped up at this point. The only real question is, can the Seahaws clinch the No. 2 spot in the NFC in order to earn a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game? Right now they’re in position to do just that with a slight lead over the Lions in the loss column. Up next for Seattle will be a road game against the Packers, with contests against the Rams, Cardinals and 49ers to close things out. While that game against the Rams seems like a walk in the park right now, Los Angeles normally plays Seattle tough, so it might not be as easy as it looks even though the Rams look lost.
3. New England Patriots (10-2)
Head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots keep rolling after an easy 26-10 win over the Rams on Sunday. Quarterback Tom Brady won his 201st career game and defeated a rookie quarterback who is still looking for his first. Brady didn’t have to put up gaudy numbers thanks to an outstanding effort from his defense that held the Rams to just 162 total yards and picked off former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff twice. New England carried a shutout into the second half and only surrendered a touchdown during garbage time after Goff and Kenny Britt connected for a long touchdown pass.
Obviously the Patriots aren’t winning any awards for beating a lifeless team like the Rams, but a win is a win nonetheless. The Pats took care of business and continue to improve their position for a first-round bye, but trail the Oakland Raiders for the No. 1 seed in the conference. Not that anyone was counting on the Dolphins catching New England anyway, but Miami did fall on Sunday to help create more breathing room for the Pats and the AFC East is pretty much wrapped up at this point, although it isn’t official yet. In fact, the Pats can make things official next week with a win over the Ravens and a loss by the Dolphins.
2. Oakland Raiders (10-2)
It seems nobody can stop the Oakland Raiders this season. After falling behind 24-9 in the third quarter to the Buffalo Bills, the Raiders scored 27 unanswered points and quarterback Derek Carr and running back Latavius Murray had a pair of touchdowns each in the winning effort. The Raiders defense, which was sieve-like in the first half, settled in nicely in the second half and shut down the Bills offense en route to a donut in the fourth quarter.
The win was Oakland’s sixth straight and head coach Jack Del Rio’s team now has sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the AFC, owning a tiebreaker over the Patriots who have the same record. While the Raiders are on top now, there isn’t much breathing room. The Chiefs and Broncos both won, and the Chiefs remain just one game behind the Raiders in the AFC West and own a tiebreaker over their division foe. That tiebreaker advantage could be erased in Week 14, as the Raiders hit the road to take on KC for first place in the division. A win for the Raiders would give them a comfortable two-game lead over KC and would almost ensure a division title with just three games remaining after that.
1. Dallas Cowboys
It wasn’t pretty, but the Cowboys were able to pull out a win over the Vikings on Thursday Night Football, 17-15. Quarterback Sam Bradford had a chance to send the game to overtime with a two-point conversion try with just seconds remaining, however the Dallas defense was able to make a stand and stop Bradford and company from scoring. Putting the missed penalty at the end aside, the Cowboys were still able to win a game even when not at their best, which is a great sign for a team hoping to make a Super Bow run.
The Week 13 win for the Cowboys was huge to say the least. Now a Week 14 matchup with the Giants has no chance of being for the division lead, so the Cowboys can afford a loss and still keep control. If the Cowboys win their Week 14 game against the G-Men, the deal will be sealed for the division and the Cowboys can cruise to the playoffs with a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed in their sights. And, with the Redskins’ loss on Sunday, the Cowboys have now clinched a playoff berth.
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