RealSport’s power rankings are brought to you by American Football Development, the UK’s no.1 provider of grassroots American football So here is our penultimate power rankings of the 2015 season. Even at this late stage in the year, teams are still defying expectations, either positively or negatively. Week 16 saw the Panthers’ perfect campaign end, the Patriots losing to the Jets in overtime after Bill Belichick trust his defense more than he did Tom Brady, and one of the biggest upsets of the season in the Ravens victory over the Steelers, potentially putting Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. It might not be surprising, then, that the Steelers has our joint-second biggest fall in our power rankings this week with a drop of five, only matched and bested by the two teams who had been contending for the NFC East until Saturday, the Eagles (-5) and the Giants (-9). The biggest riser, on the other hand, came lower down the table, with the Saints jumping six spots after Drew Brees put on a show in what may be his last home game as a Saint. To top off what has been one of the most confusing and unpredictable seasons in recent years, we have a new #1 team heading into the final week. Check out the full rankings below! (GS) Panel: Gur Samuel, David Venables, Edd Hodsdon, Remy Cabache, Toby Durant, Brandon Hamme, Pete Hallifax, Charlie Anderson, David Pruett, Rebecca Rennie
1. Arizona Cardinals (13-2) Last week: #2 GS = 1, DV = 1, EH = 1, RC = 2, TD = 1, BH = 2, PH = 1, CA = 1, DP = 1, RR = 1 Right now, the Cardinals are the team that nobody wants to play in the playoffs. Their defense, particularly their front seven, is devastating, see the 8 sacks of Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. Their offense scores points for fun, and oh yeah, they just blew out another playoff team like they were nothing. What a story this season has been for Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer. (DV) 2. Carolina Panthers (14-1) Last week: #1 GS = 2, DV = 2, EH = 2, RC = 1, TD = 2, BH = 1, PH = 2, CA = 2, DP = 2, RR = 2 They’ve had so many close calls that one of them had to eventually end in defeat. There’s some questions of depth at certain key positions on this team that is maybe being a little exposed in recent weeks, which could be an issue as the post season looms. Still, one loss does not take away from the achievements of Ron Rivera’s group. (RR) 3. New England Patriots (12-3) Last week: #3 GS = 3, DV = 3, EH = 3, RC = 3, TD = 4, BH = 3, PH = 3, CA = 3, DP = 3, RR = 3 Losing to the Jets was a little surprise. The manner of it, however, left a bitter taste in many mouths. Once Amendola, Edelman, McCourty and Chung are back, Pats fans will be hoping that additional coin tosses aren’t necessary. (PH) 4. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) Last week: #5 GS = 5, DV = 8, EH = 4, RC = 5, TD = 3, BH = 8, PH = 5, CA = 9, DP = 7, RR = 5 The Bengals showed just how good this team is by taking the Broncos right down to the wire with an incredibly unexperienced QB at the helm. Though, with this loss and the recent news about Dalton – he is expected to miss at least 2 more weeks – McCarron may have to start a Wild Card game. (RC) 5. Denver Broncos (11-4) Last week: #8 GS = 4, DV = 5, EH = 5, RC = 4, TD = 7, BH = 7, PH = 10, CA = 10, DP = 4, RR = 4 Down 14-3 at halftime versus the Bengals, the possibility of Denver missing the playoffs entirely was very real. Credit Wade Phillips for the turnaround, his defensive adjustments stifled the AJ McCarron-led Bengals offense in the second half and saved the Broncos season. Amazingly, from potentially being out of the playoffs at halftime Denver now has the inside track on a first round bye and the #2 seed. We may not see Peyton Manning again, ever. (DP) 6. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) Last week: #9 GS = 10, DV = 4, EH = 8, RC = 6, TD = 5, BH = 6, PH = 8, CA = 7, DP = 5, RR = 7 The Chiefs won their ninth straight game and secured a playoff spot, but it wasn’t a pretty win. They let Cleveland hang around in the mix for far too long. The Chiefs can still wrestle the AFC West away from the Broncos, with a win and a Denver loss in Week 17, but that would prevent them from facing the AFC South champion in the first round. (EH) 7. Seattle Seahawks (9-6) Last week: #4 GS = 7, DV = 9, EH = 7, RC = 8, TD = 9, BH = 4, PH = 7, CA = 4, DP = 6, RR = 6 Losing to a Case Keenum-led Rams team should bring nothing but shame to the Seahawks. Teams will look at this game and use it as the blueprint to beating Seattle in January. The Rams defense consistently got to Russell Wilson, and although he makes some ridiculous plays on the move, he can’t make them all. Marshawn Lynch was a missed factor in a torrid rushing game for the Seahawks. (DV) 8. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) Last week: #10 GS = 9, DV = 7, EH = 6, RC = 9, TD = 6, BH = 9, PH = 4, CA = 6, DP = 10, RR = 9 The question earlier in the year was the lack of quality wins despite the good win-loss record. That remains a bit of a question, but the playoff spot is secured, and the winner-takes-the-North season ender against the Packers is as big as any in Week 17. P.S. how did Harrison Smith not make the Pro Bowl? (RR) 9. New York Jets (10-6) Last week: #11 GS = 6, DV = 6, EH = 9, RC = 7, TD = 8, BH = 10, PH = 9, CA = 8, DP = 8, RR = 8 This was the one they wanted. Every year, whoever the coach, whoever the players, Patriots games are always circled on Gang Green’s calendar. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have been exceptional this season, and the one two punch at RB is one of the best in the league. (PH) 10. Green Bay Packers (10-6) Last week: #7 GS = 8, DV = 11, EH = 11, RC = 10, TD = 11, BH = 11, PH = 6, CA = 5, DP = 9, RR = 10 The Packers were embarrassed by the Cardinals. Not only did this really expose the Packers shortcomings, it really showed the Cardinals strength. The Packers will have to produce an incredibly different performance to retain their division title. (RC) 11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) Last week: #6 GS = 11, DV = 12, EH = 10, RC = 11, TD = 10, BH = 5, PH = 11, CA = 11, DP = 12, RR = 11 And just like that the season could be over for Pittsburgh. That was a horrible showing against a Ravens team led by a QB signed just 2 weeks earlier, having been run out of Houston! What happened to the passing offense against one of the league’s worst secondaries? (DP) 12. Washington Redskins (8-7) Last week: #12 GS = 13, DV = 10, EH = 13, RC = 12, TD = 13, BH = 13, PH = 12, CA = 13, DP = 11, RR = 12 Finally, someone won the NFC East, and the winner was the team that has looked the most complete all along. Washington claimed their first division title since 2012 thanks to a mostly perfect day from Kirk Cousins on the road. But despite an impressive win, the Redskins still look like playoff fodder. (EH) 13. Houston Texans (8-7) Last week: #13 GS = 12, DV = 13, EH = 12, RC = 13, TD = 12, BH = 18, PH = 13, CA = 15, DP = 13, RR = 13 Brandon Weeden snapped his 11-game losing streak as a starter to give the Texans one hand on the AFC South title. If he can guide them to one more victory next week, then the division is theirs and he will force a choice at quarterback for the Texans, not for the first time this season. (DV) 14. Oakland Raiders (7-8) Last week: #14 GS = 18, DV = 15, EH = 14, RC = 14, TD = 15, BH = 12, PH = 14, CA = 14, DP = 17, RR = 16 Of all the teams to miss out on the playoffs, the Raiders can be among the most optimistic of their future over the next few years with some excellent young talent added in recent drafts. They face the Chiefs in the final game of the season with plenty to play for – a chance to ruin their division rivals’ hopes of the West title, to finish with a .500 record, and to send out the legend that is Woodson on a winning note. (RR) 15. Atlanta Falcons (8-7) Last week: #17 GS = 14, DV = 14, EH = 15, RC = 17, TD = 14, BH = 14, PH = 15, CA = 22, DP = 14, RR = 14 It has been a long time in Atlanta since we last saw a pass rush but the performance of Vic Beasley against a stout Panthers OL holds promise for the future. The Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection just keeps putting big numbers up. (DP) 16. St. Louis Rams (7-8) Last week: =#20 GS = 15, DV = 16, EH = 16, RC = 15, TD = 18, BH = 17, PH = 16, CA = 19, DP = 16, RR = 19 Spoiler alert: The Rams. Who knows which St. Louis team will show up week to week? I certainly don’t, and that’s why it’s so exicting to watch this team week to week. (PH) 17. Buffalo Bills (7-8) Last week: #16 GS = 21, DV = 17, EH = 18, RC = 16, TD = 16, BH = 15, PH = 19, CA = 16, DP = 15, RR = 20 The Bills manged to beat the awful Cowboys in an ugly affair. Though they don’t have anything to play for, Rex Ryan and the Bills will surely be a handful for the Jets in Western New York on Sunday. (RC) 18. Indianapolis Colts (7-8) Last week: #19 GS = 16, DV = 18, EH = 20, RC = 23, TD = 17, BH = 22, PH = 18, CA = 21, DP = 19, RR = 15 It took three quarterbacks, but Indianapolis managed to beat Miami to keep their slim AFC South hopes alive. But the Colts need help from other teams to win the division, and could be making some major coaching and front office changes in the offseason. (EH) 19. New Orleans Saints (6-9) Last week: #25 GS = 17, DV = 22, EH = 19, RC = 22, TD = 20, BH = 19, PH = 24, CA = 25, DP = 18, RR = 17 I’m not sure how the Saints can be contemplating letting Drew Brees leave New Orleans, despite it probably being more of a money issue rather than a talent one. Passing for 412 yards in what could be his last home game in the Superdome proves that. (DV) 20. Detroit Lions (6-9) Last week: #24 GS = 19, DV = 19, EH = 17, RC = 20, TD = 22, BH = 16, PH = 23, CA = 23, DP = 24, RR = 22 A convincing win over the 49ers will feel good, with a chance to build on that at the Bears to end the season. It could turn out to be Megatron’s last for the Lions though, as a tough decision looms for the new incoming general manager straight away. Fans won’t like it, but it’s hard to justify such a huge cap hit due in 2016. (RR) 21. Chicago Bears (6-9) Last week: #23 GS = 20, DV = 20, EH = 23, RC = 21, TD = 19, BH = 23, PH = 17, CA = 24, DP = 22, RR = 23 The Bears just did enough to overcome the Buccaneers, though the Bucs Hail Mary at the end of the game does pad the stats a little. The defense played okay, the offense played okay. (RC) 22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) Last week: =#20 GS = 24, DV = 21, EH = 24, RC = 18, TD = 21, BH = 26, PH = 21, CA = 17, DP = 20, RR = 24 There’s hope for the future in Tampa. Yes, they lost to the Bears on Sunday, but they’ve managed a fairly middle of the road season with some good wins and some poor losses, and everything in between. Jameis Winston definitely gives some hope for the future. (PH) 23. Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) Last week: #18 GS = 27, DV = 24, EH = 21, RC = 19, TD = 24, BH = 21, PH = 22, CA = 18, DP = 21, RR = 21 Philadelphia had a chance to keep this year’s dismal NFC East race going another week, but blew it. Chip Kelly will either have to rebuild his roster or take another job in the offseason after a disappointing season. (EH) 24. New York Giants (6-9) Last week: #15 GS = 25, DV = 25, EH = 25, RC = 24, TD = 26, BH = 20, PH = 20, CA = 12, DP = 26, RR = 18 It feels like the Tom Coughlin / Jerry Reese era is coming to a close, and not on a high note. While the team could, perhaps, be forgiven for a slight dip in performance following their elimination from contention the night before that was a complete laydown performance against Minnesota. (DP) 25. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) Last week: #22 GS = 23, DV = 26, EH = 22, RC = 25, TD = 23, BH = 25, PH = 25, CA = 20, DP = 23, RR = 25 The Jaguars have so much talent offensively that it must pain them to watch their team every time the defense takes the field. If they could just limit opposing quarterbacks to even 300 yards and one score, they would give their offense a chance. But 412 yards to Drew Brees? Are you serious Jags? That’s why you still won’t be taken seriously in this league yet. (DV) 26. Baltimore Ravens (5-10) Last week: #30 GS = 22, DV = 23, EH = 28, RC = 28, TD = 25, BH = 24, PH = 28, CA = 27, DP = 28, RR = 27 Arguably the shock result of the week, but despite the records and the contrasting fortunes this year, you can’t forget that this is one of the most hard fought rivalries in the league, and the Ravens rarely loose to Pittsburgh at home historically. Mallet might have given himself a chance of a roster spot for next year. (RR) 27. San Diego Chargers (4-11) Last week: #27 GS = 26, DV = 29, EH = 26, RC = 26, TD = 29, BH = 27, PH = 27, CA = 26, DP = 25, RR = 30 The San Diego Chargers are unlikely to be in their traditional home next year. The players and fans have all but said goodbye, and they’ve done it on a sour note. Bad season, bad press, just plain bad. (PH) 28. Miami Dolphins (5-10) Last week: #26 GS = 28, DV = 27, EH = 30, RC = 27, TD = 27, BH = 28, PH = 26, CA = 28, DP = 27, RR = 26 The Dolphins season was summed up pretty well on one play in the 4th quarter. Tannehill receiver the snap, but only the center moved, leaving 3 Colts d-linemen a free shot at Tannehill. Landry has been unbelievable for the Dolphins, but that’s pretty much it. (RC) 29. Dallas Cowboys (4-11) Last week: #28 GS = 29, DV = 30, EH = 31, RC = 29, TD = 28, BH = 29, PH = 29, CA = 29, DP = 30, RR = 28 New QB, same problems. It is difficult to put the loss on Kellen Moore as no-one has been able to succeed in Dallas this year. Is Jason Garrett in trouble? Jerry Jones has been patient with him and will likely give him one more year with a healthy Tony Romo but he will surely be on notice. (DP) 30. San Francisco 49ers (4-11) Last week: #29 GS = 31, DV = 28, EH = 29, RC = 30, TD = 31, BH = 30, PH = 32, CA = 30, DP = 29, RR = 29 Blaine Gabbert has showed some promise, but hasn’t helped results much. The 49ers complete their shocking fall by being the worst team in the NFC West and look like they need a complete offseason rebuild. (EH) 31. Cleveland Browns (3-12) Last week: =#31 GS = 30, DV = 31, EH = 27, RC = 31, TD = 30, BH = 31, PH = 30, CA = 31, DP = 31, RR = 32 It’s testament to the Browns’ spirit that they still had a chance to beat the Chiefs as time expired, but as often the way it goes in Cleveland, they just couldn’t pull it off. Johnny Manziel looked like college Johnny Football the way he was scrambling around on Sunday, but he needs to show he can make more plays with his arm if he wants to be the starter in 2016. (DV) 32. Tennessee Titans (3-12) Last week: =#31 GS = 32, DV = 32, EH = 32, RC = 32, TD = 32, BH = 32, PH = 31, CA = 32, DP = 32, RR = 31 The mid-season coaching change did not help change the fortunes in Tennessee, with a thumping by the Weedon-led Texans the latest ugly loss. Mariota is shut down for the year, and a #1 overall selection in the draft should be confirmed next week. American Football Development is a British-American company dedicated to bringing the genuine culture of American football to the UK and beyond. Catering to every aspect of American football – from grassroots programs for schools and communities to elite performance clinics with former NFL players, AFD are the go-to people for all things football-related. AFD are proud to sponsor RealSport’s weekly NFL power rankings.