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Sunday, 8 December 2013

December Power Rankings

Another month, another power ranking!!! We're three quarters (and one game) through the NFL regular season now, and most of the playoff picture is set. The home stretch will see a couple of very tight division races and the awfulness that is the battle for the AFC's 6th seed.

We also have a clear front runner for most disappointing team of the year and the leader in the Battle for Bridgewater. We start with them, after the jump!!

32. (20) Houston Texans (TD = 32, PG = 32, GS = 32)

Case Keenum clearly isn't the future for Houston, and after this 11 game losing streak, including being swept by Jacksonville, neither is Gary Kubiak. So what do they do? They probably use their top pick, potentially the 1st overall for a team who has pre-season Superbowl ambitions, on a QB but isn't it tempting to pair Jedeveon Clowney with JJ Watt and just go to town on opposing QB's!? Rumours are swirling that Lovie Smith is the guy they want as a new head coach, but I wouldn't be surprised if they went with a more offensive minded head coach and just left Wade Phillips to continue his good work on the defense. (TD)

31.  (22) Buffalo Bills (TD = 30, PG = 32, GS = 28)

EJ Manuel has played ok, but CJ Spiller's nagging injuries has seen his yards per touch plummet from 6.8 last year to 4.7 this season. The defense has struggled against the run while the Thad Lewis phase really hurt them too. Doug Marrone does seem like a good coach though, and they do still have that great front 4 which is fuelling their 4th best pass defense DVOA. (TD)

30.  (24) Washington Redskins (TD = 31, PG = 24, GS = 29)

Nearly two years in and the RGIII trade isn't looking so good for Washington. The offense seems to have been figured out by NFL defenses and Griffin's arm, as well as the receiving talent, just isn't enough to carry a terrible defense and the bare-bones roster. They need more talent, but their first round pick is once again going to St. Louis this year so even 2014 is looking like it will be a struggle for the Redskins. (TD)

29.  (27) Atlanta Falcons (TD = 29, PG = 26, GS = 27)

The most disappointing team in the NFC without question. Atlanta have been horrible all year, and yes injuries to key players have hurt them, but their issues don't just come from a hobbled Julio Jones and Roddy White. They've been unable to run the ball all year thanks to a terrible offensive line while their defense can't stop anybody. the Falcons might find defensive relieve in the draft however, as their in prime Jedeveon Clowney territory. (TD)

28.  (14) New York Jets (TD = 23, PG = 27, GS = 31)

So, it doesn't look like Geno Smith is the answer under centre for the Jets. After 3 years of investing first round picks in their defensive line it's time for the Jets to really concentrate on fixing this dismal offense. They need receivers who can separate if Geno is ever going to turn into a consistent NFL level quarterback. But hey, at least their run defense is terrific. Sheldon Richardson would be a very deserving defensive rookie of the year winner. (TD)

27.  (32) Jacksonville Jaguars (TD = 25, PG = 30, GS = 25)

Jacksonville has gone 4-1 since they got destroyed by San Francisco in London and played themselves out of the number one pick, but it's clear that this team is buying what Gus Bradley is selling. Their young receivers really catch the eye (especially when they're throwing TD's) and Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to look more like his old self. There's definitely light at the end of the tunnel for the Jags. (TD)

26.  (31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TD = 27, PG = 29, GS = 24)

Maybe Greg Schiano wasn't the problem? Maybe it really was all Josh Freeman? Tampa had won 3 straight before facing the Panthers last week, including an upset win in Detroit with Mike Glennon looking not-terrible for long periods of time too. They've also had great success running the ball since Doug Martin's injury, with first Mike James and then Bobby Rainey. The real story is on defense though, where Lavonte David is playing outstanding football, as is Gerald McCoy. Both are having years worthy of award consideration, though they'll probably come up short in the voting. (TD)

25.  (30) Minnesota Vikings (TD = 28, PG = 28, GS = 21)

Minnesota are finding more ways to get Cordarrelle Patterson the ball, and he's rewarding them. Last week it was a 33 yard TD run after lining up at running back. If he can just nail down his route running then he could be a deadly weapon for which ever new QB the Vikings start in 2014, because it will definitely not be any of the ones they currently have. (TD)

24.  (18) Cleveland Browns (TD = 24, PG = 25, GS = 26)

Speaking of new QB's, the Browns will be on their 4th starter of the year when Alex Tanney lines up under centre this week, but that run of bad QB luck doesn't seem to matter to Josh Gordon who is shredding opposing secondaries. Gordon's stats, pro-rated over 16 games, would be 1998 yards, 11 TD's and 102 catches. With all these different, and terrible, QB's that is just an amazing year. And to think the Browns were shopping him for just a 2nd round pick before the trade deadline. (TD)

23.  (26) Oakland Raiders (TD = 26, PG = 23, GS = 23)

A 4-8 record has to be seen as a victory in Oakland after many people, myself included, thought they would be the worst team in football this year and perhaps threaten the 0-16 Lions. With all the dead money coming off their salary cap next year they can really re-tool their roster and look to finally move on from the dark days. Terrelle Pryor probably hasn't done enough to stop the Raiders looking at drafting a QB high, but their roster is so full of holes maybe they wait and give him and Matt McGloin 2014. (TD)

22.  (13) Green Bay Packers (TD = 16, PG = 19, GS = 30)

The injury to Aaron Rodgers has unsurprisingly killed their season. There's a lot of talent on the offense but they just can't get to it because the quarterback play is so horrible now. On defense? Well AJ Hawk has been flying around the field making tackles, but as a unit they've been awful, ranking 30th in defensive DVOA. (TD)

21.  (28) New York Giants (TD = 22, PG = 18, GS = 22)

The Giants were 0-6 before running into the kindest opposing QB schedule in history. They got Josh Freeman just a week or so into his Minnesota tenure, Matt Barkley for Philly, a hobbled Terrelle Pryor and then Scott Tolzien. That 4 game win streak had the G-Men fans dreaming of the ultimate turnaround, but a loss to Dallas all but killed those thoughts. With Seattle and Detroit still on the schedule it might be in the Giants best interest to sit Eli Manning down and wait for 2014. (TD)

20.  (29) Pittsburgh Steelers (TD = 21, PG = 21, GS = 19)

What's there really to say about this Steelers team? They're old, they get hurt a lot and they're not close to as good as they used to be. But they can still throw a spanner in the works of Miami this week and hurt Cincinnati next week. The bright spots for Pittsburgh have been Antonio Brown and rookie Le'Veon Bell, as well as the improvement of David DeCastro at guard who is looking more like the run-blocking monster he projected to be coming out of Stanford. (TD)

19.  (25) St. Louis Rams (TD = 19, PG = 22, GS = 20)

St. Louis' season realistically ended with the injury to Sam Bradford, but they've gone 2-3 since then against very tough slate. The best thing about the Rams has been the play of their defensive ends Chris Long and in particular Robert Quinn who's been destroying left tackles almost at will. Rookie Tavon Austin has started to make big plays on offense as well as in the return game now, and Zac Stacy looks like he might be the long-term answer at running back for them. They're also currently in line to get the 2nd overall pick thanks to Washington, so it's not been all doom and gloom since Bradford got hurt. (TD)

18.  (16) Tennessee Titans (TD = 17, PG = 20, GS = 18)

Tennessee would have hoped to get a full year from Jake Locker to evaluate him, but those hopes are dashed. All that's left is the outside chance of a playoff spot and the comfort that their defense has started to come around now, they have a nice secondary with Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner and up front Jurrell Casey has been great, picking up 9 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. (TD)

17.  (17) Miami Dolphins (TD = 20, PG = 14, GS = 15)

Miami came close to beating Carolina, and then put the Jets playoff hopes away but their own are hanging by a thread. Winning out wouldn't guarantee them a spot, as Baltimore hold the tie breaker over them thanks to winning the week 5 game between the two sides. (TD)

16.  (11) Chicago Bears (TD = 14, PG = 17, GS = 17)

Do Chicago have the best pair of receivers in the NFL now? With the way Alshon Jeffrey has been playing it's definitely a possibility. We continue to enjoy Chicago's rookie right side of the offensive line, as does Matt Forte. It's just the defense, specifically against the run, that will hold them back from a playoff berth. (TD)

15.  (15) San Diego Chargers (TD = 15, PG = 16, GS = 16)

The Chargers are still on the fringes of the playoff race despite their 5-7 record and horrific defense. The recent win over Kansas City though provides comfort that if not this year than maybe next. First year head coach Mike McCoy has done a good job getting Phil Rivers back to his peak form and schemed around offensive line injuries, making him a leading "Coach of the Year" candidate. (TD)

14.  (21) Baltimore Ravens (TD = 18, PG = 15, GS = 13)

The defending champs are currently pencilled in for the 6th seed in the AFC, but it will be tough for them to stay there. After Minnesota this week their schedule includes the Patriots, Bengals and Lions. For them to get the required wins they'll need to play better on offense, and the return of TE Dennis Pitta should help them in the passing game, but their inability to run the ball with either Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce is worrying. Don't be surprised if the Ravens invest in some offensive line talent this off-season. (TD)

13.  (12) Dallas Cowboys (TD = 13, PG = 12, GS = 12)

Now that we're in December we can expect the Cowboys to fall apart, right? Well maybe. They've lived with their terrible defense all year and still put up a 7-5 record thanks to another strong year from Tony Romo and healthy years from Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray (it can't last surely!). Their next three games (@ Chicago, vs Green Bay, @ Washington) are all very winnable, meaning we have a potential NFC East title decider against Philly lined up in week 17. (TD)

12.  (23) Arizona Cardinals (TD = 10, PG = 13, GS = 14)

The Cardinals are pushing for a wildcard on the back of their terrific defense. Spurred on by the return of Daryl Washington they've been a blitz-happy unit of destruction, with star players littering every level of the defense it's a unit that is in legitimate competition with Carolina and Seattle. The only problem is the offense which continues to be untrustworthy with Carson Palmer under centre. (TD)

11.  (8) Detroit Lions (TD = 12, PG = 10, GS = 9)

The Lions snapped an 0-9 Thanksgiving streak, can they snap a 20 year division title drought too? At 7-5 they're a game ahead of Chicago and own tie breaker against the Bears, but have tricky games in Philly and against Baltimore coming up. The worry is that they're totally reliant on Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush on offense, both of whom are carrying knocks. Their defensive line continues to cause teams difficulties. Ndamukong Suh is just a great player, and Ziggy Ansah has been more productive in his rookie year than many thought. (TD)

10.  (4) Indianapolis Colts (TD = 11, PG = 8, GS = 11)

So much for that first place vote I gave them this time last month! Ever since they knocked off Denver things have been a struggle for the Colts. They've alternated wins and losses, getting man-handled by St. Louis and Arizona while scraping wins inside their division against Houston and Tennessee. It's no surprise that the team has struggled offensively without Reggie Wayne, but the defense that had played so well early on seems to be regressing at a bad time for Indy. 1 more win is enough to secure their first Post-Manning division title, but the playoffs could be a tough ride for the Colts this year. (TD)

9.  (10) Cincinnati Bengals (TD = 7, PG = 11, GS = 10)

No one has really talked about the Bengals all year, the AFC discussion has always been about Denver, KC and New England, but the Bengals are 8-4 and have wins against the Aaron Rodgers Packers, New England and Detroit already. Sure, they've lost both of their best defenders for the year (Geno Atkins to an ACl and Leon Hall to an achilles) but Mike Zimmer and his defensive staff have done a great job once again. Of course, the Bengals have been in the playoffs the last two years and fallen to Houston, but with them out of the picture maybe they can overcome that first round hurdle this time. (TD)

8.  (19) Philadelphia Eagles (TD = 9, PG = 9, GS = 8)

Nick Foles has put together quite the season; 19 TD's, no picks, completing 63.3% of his passes at 9.1 yards per attempt. Not too bad really. Foles' year has been enough to get him some MVP talk as well, even though he's only played in 9 games. As well as Foles the defense has improved over the year, settling into their new 3-4 scheme well. The Eagles are close to going worst-to-first in the NFC East, and even closer to winning my big all or nothing pre-season bet of over 7.5 wins! (TD)

7.  (2) Kansas City Chiefs (TD = 8, PG = 5, GS = 6)

Things haven't been quite as smooth for the Chiefs recently. Their defense has fallen off a little bit, especially with injuries to both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. That has forced them to throw the ball a bit more, and while Alex Smith has done well with that responsibility it's not quite what the Chiefs want to be. They're locked into the #5 seed at least now so they don't have too much to worry about until January. (TD)

6.  (3) San Francisco 49ers (TD = 6, PG = 4, GS = 7)

It's been an odd year for San Francisco. Injuries have been a huge factor for them, Patrick Willis and Mike Iupati missed time this year along with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham. And yet they sit at 8-4 as a very dangerous wildcard, the defense has been cranking it up recently and they have the Seahawks at home this week in what is always a good game. The division may be out of their reach, but you can be sure Harbaugh and his players all have a return trip to Seattle in January in mind. (TD)

5.  (6) New Orleans Saints (TD = 5, PG = 7, GS = 3)

The Saints have had a tricky time of it recently. They beat San Francisco at home by 3 thanks to a soft flag on Ahmad Brooks for a clothesline on Drew Brees, they then laboured to a 17-13 on Thursday Night Football in Atlanta before getting played off the park by the Seahawks in Seattle. Now they have 2 of their next 3 against the streaking Panthers to decide the NFC South fate. They need their wide receivers to step up and take the pressure off Jimmy Graham if they're going to compete against the Panthers defense. (TD)

4.  (9) Carolina Panthers (TD = 3, PG = 6, GS = 5)

A run of 8 straight wins, including against San Francisco and New England, has propelled the Panthers into the race for the NFC South title, a race that will probably be decided in the next 3 weeks as they face off against the Saints twice. Carolina's streak has been powered by a fantastic defense starring rookie of the year candidate Star Lotulelei and last year's winner Luke Kuechly, but Cam Newton has also been impressive. The 3rd year QB has found consistency throwing the ball and continues to make "wow" plays with his legs that leave defenders and viewers amazed. (TD)

3.  (7) New England Patriots (TD = 4, PG = 3, GS = 4)

New England's offense looks rejuvenated with the returns of Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen, not to mention Julian Edelman doing a fantastic Wes Welker impression. But with all the defensive injuries their run defense is almost as bad as Chicago's and it will probably end up costing them in the post-season. Unless the elements get involved again as the did against Denver. (TD)

2.  (1) Denver Broncos (TD = 2, PG = 2, GS = 2)

The consensus no. 2 team are the Denver Broncos. They were marching along happily until that windy night in Foxboro. Now all the questions about Peyton Manning's ability to win big games & play in cold weather are back, but they remain the most dangerous offense in football, with a defense that can terrorise a QB if they get try to pass too often. They do need to win-out now if they want to retain the number one seed in the AFC however, but their toughest game remaining is probably a thursday nighter against San Diego. (TD)

1.  (5) Seattle Seahawks (TD = 1, PG = 1, GS = 1)

After their performance on Monday Night can you be surprised that the Seahawks are our consensus No. 1 team? They chewed up the Saints and spit them out as Russell Wilson's legend grew again. With home field advantage all but confirmed now the question is can anyone stop the Seahawks from making the trip to New York in February? The chances are slim with the defense, despite Brandon Browner & Walter Thurmond missing, and offense working so well. (TD)

Think a team are way too high or low? Leave a comment or give us a tweet!

- The Pulling Linemen


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