RealSport’s power rankings are brought to you by American Football Development, the UK’s no.1 provider of grassroots American football So the 2015 season is over, and that means it’s time for our final power rankings of the year. Who would have guessed back in September that the unanimous #1 would be the Carolina Panthers? Or that the defending champion New England Patriots would end the year outside the top 5? Or that the Packers would finish outside the top 10? It’s been of the most unpredictable seasons of modern times, a true reflection of the league’s drive for parity. Our thoughts now turn towards the playoffs and the draft, so we’ll leave you with our final power rankings of the 2015 season… (GS) Panel: Gur Samuel, David Venables, Edd Hodsdon, Remy Cabache, Toby Durant, Pete Hallifax, Nathan Hards, David Pruett, Rebecca Rennie
1. Carolina Panthers (15-1) Last week: #2 GS = 1, DV = 1, EH = 1, RC = 1, TD = 1, PH = 1, NH = 1, DP = 1, RR = 1 Cam was missing several weapons including Stewart and Ginn, but were comfortable winners over the Buccaneers to secure the best regular season record in the NFL this season. Newton continues to set ridiculous records, the latest to tie Steve Young’s career mark of 31 games with both a rush and pass TD, at just 26 years old. (RR) 2. Arizona Cardinals (13-3) Last week: #1 GS = 2, DV = 2, EH = 2, RC = 2, TD = 2, PH = 3, NH = 2, DP = 2, RR = 2 The Cardinals were embarrassed by the Seahawks to end the season at 13-3. Nevertheless, they have shown the quality they have and that they can beat anyone. Teams will not be too keen on playing the Cardinals. (RC) 3. Denver Broncos (12-4) Last week: #5 GS = 4, DV = 4, EH = 3, RC = 3, TD = 3, PH = 7, NH = 5, DP = 3, RR = 4 Not sure anyone expected Peyton Manning back so soon but his presence helped lift the Broncos to the #1 seed in the AFC. Perhaps the greatest consequence of Mannings absence is that they have learned to not rely on him leading to an improved run game. With that defense performing well again, they will be tough to beat in the post-season. (DP) 4. Seattle Seahawks (10-6) Last week: #7 GS = 3, DV = 5, EH = 4, RC = 7, TD = 5, PH = 5, NH = 7, DP = 5, RR = 3 Handed a beat down to the Cardinals to remind us all why nobody will want to face this team in the playoffs. The offense is warming up nicely, and can expect Marshawn Lynch back next week, while the defense looked mightily sharp. Good luck Minnesota, you’re going to need it. (DV) 5. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) Last week: #4 GS = 5, DV = 7, EH = 6, RC = 5, TD = 4, PH = 4, NH = 5, DP = 4, RR = 6 Andy Dalton is fighting hard to be back for this week’s play-off game versus the Steelers but his presence (or lack thereof) is unlikely to be a deciding factor in the game. AJ McCarron has shown enough in relief to ensure the difference next week is going to be how well the Bengals D can stop the Steeler O. (DP) 6. New England Patriots (12-4) Last week: #3 GS = 6, DV = 6, EH = 5, RC = 4, TD = 7, PH = 6, NH = 3, DP = 7, RR = 5 Missed their opportunity again for the AFC top seed, and don’t enter the post-season with much in the way of momentum. Two consecutive defeats to division rivals, and 4 losses in their last 6 isn’t exactly championship form. (RR) 7. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) Last week: #6 GS = 9, DV = 3, EH = 7, RC = 6, TD = 8, PH = 8, NH = 6, DP = 6, RR = 8 The hottest team in football right now, bar none. Sunday’s trip to Houston will provide a litmus test as to how far the Chiefs can go in the playoffs. Obviously if they lose, they’re one-and-done, but a win against a team famed for its stingy defense could send a message that this Chiefs team is on a roll that can’t be stopped. (DV) 8. Minnesota Vikings (11-5) Last week: #8 GS = 8, DV = 9, EH = 8, RC = 8, TD = 9, PH = 2, NH = 7, DP = 9, RR = 9 There is nothing flashy about the Vikings and that suits Mike Zimmer just fine. Quietly going about their business the Vikings took care of the Packers to win their first division title since Brett Favre was the QB in 2009. They run into a buzz-saw this week in the Seahawks and might need to find some flair in order to win that game. (DP) 9. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) Last week: #11 GS = 7, DV = 10, EH = 9, RC = 10, TD = 6, PH = 10, NH = 10, DP = 10, RR = 7 It’s amazing what a week can do. After seeing their playoff dreams lie in tatters after their loss to the Ravens, they handed the Browns a whooping and saw the Bills overcome the Jets to hand them back the number 6 seed in the playoffs. This offense will be a match for any team. (DV) 10. Washington Redskins (9-7) Last week: #12 GS = 11, DV = 8, EH = 13, RC = 9, TD = 10, PH = 11, NH = 14, DP = 8, RR = 9 There is no-one, save perhaps Russell Wilson, playing better football than Kirk Cousins right now. They embarrassed the Cowboys, resting starters from before halftime and seem to be getting better every week. They host a slumping Packers team this week as they look for the franchise’s first postseason victory since 2005. (DP) 11. Green Bay Packers (10-6) Last week: #10 GS = 10, DV = 11, EH = 12, RC = 11, TD = 11, PH = 9, NH = 11, DP = 11, RR = 11 If one team can make the Patriots end to the season look good, it’s the Packers. A shell of the team that started 6-0, they will have to get their act together on offense fast if they are going to stop the red-hot Redskins. (DV) 12. Houston Texans (9-7) Last week: #13 GS = 12, DV = 12, EH = 10, RC = 12, TD = 12, PH = 12, NH = 12, DP = 12, RR = 12 So that is what JJ. Watt is like when he has 2 hands free to use – 3 sacks, 8 tackles (3 for loss) a fumble recovery and 2 passes defensed. As the most valuable non-quarterback in the league Watt’s presence on that defense will make things uncomfortable for Alex Smith next weekend. (DP) 13. New York Jets (10-6) Last week: #9 GS = 14, DV = 15, EH = 11, RC = 13, TD = 13, PH = 13, NH = 9, DP = 13, RR = 13 Heartbreak all round for the New York teams as the Jets saw the playoff hopes by the very man they kicked from town just 12 months ago. Ryan Fitzpatrick, for all he’s worth, had a fourth quarter to forget when one play was all that was needed from their quarterback. He may have diminished his value to the Jets on the same day he broke their franchise record for touchdown passes in a season. Brutal, but that’s football. (DV) 14. Buffalo Bills (8-8) Last week: #17 GS = 13, DV = 13, EH = 15, RC = 15, TD = 15, PH = 19, NH = 15, DP = 14, RR = 14 There are a lot of positives to be taken from Rex Ryan’s first year in charge in Buffalo, even with the negatives that are so talked about in the press. 8-8 seems about right for this club but with the discovery of an offense that can put points up and an offseason of getting the defense on the same page it would not be a surprise to see the Bills play-off drought end next year. (DP) =15. Atlanta Falcons (8-8) Last week: #15 GS = 20, DV = 20, EH = 17, RC = 16, TD = 14, PH = 14, NH = 13, DP = 17, RR = 15 Where do the Falcons go from here? They started so brightly, and ended so poorly, that it’s hard to define just what they need to address. Will Thomas Dimitroff be around in 2015? Will Dan Quinn be retained? Both answers will probably be yes, but if so, then the buck stops with the players. There will be change in Atlanta, that’s for sure. (DV) =15. Oakland Raiders (7-9) Last week: #14 GS = 16, DV = 21, EH = 14, RC = 14, TD = 17, PH = 15, NH = 17, DP = 16, RR = 16 As a young team the Raiders are learning fast, the next thing to learn is how to win close games. Oakland have developed a habit of keeping games tight and gaining ‘moral victories’ but that won’t cut it in the NFL. There is a lot to like about this team for next year though. (DP) 17. Indianapolis Colts (8-8) Last week: #18 GS = 15, DV = 14, EH = 19, RC = 23, TD = 16, PH = 18, NH = 16, DP = 19, RR = 17 team that was clearly fighting for their head coach on Sunday was the Colts, who had two journeymen quarterbacks throw touchdowns for them. Pagano may have saved his job via player power. (DV) 18. Detroit Lions (7-9) Last week: #20 GS = 17, DV = 16, EH = 21, RC = 18, TD = 21, PH = 21, NH = 20, DP = 15, RR = 21 The Lions’ rankings in previous weeks may well be a holdover from a horrible start to the season. Since the bye week and the organisational changes Detroit are a Hail Mary defense away from being 7-1. Jim Caldwell may well have saved his job. (DP) 19. New Orleans Saints (7-9) Last week: #19 GS = 18, DV = 18, EH = 16, RC = 22, TD = 19, PH = 25, NH = 18, DP = 18, RR = 19 We may have just seen Sean Payton’s last game in New Orleans. Apparently, the Saints are willing to listen to suitors for their head coach for a second round draft pick. Will he leave? Will Brees leave with him? Expect more to be announced Wednesday afternoon. (DV) 20. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9) Last week: #23 GS = 19, DV = 17, EH = 18, RC = 20, TD = 20, PH = 20, NH = 21, DP = 21, RR = 18 DeMarco Murray likes it when you run I-form, under centre – his 54 yard run first-up will have brought wry smiles to a few faces in the organisation. Who will be the new coach? What do they do about Sam Bradford? (DP) 21. St. Louis Rams (7-9) Last week: #16 GS = 23, DV = 23, EH = 20, RC = 17, TD = 18, PH = 16, NH = 22, DP = 20, RR = 20 This could be the last time we write the words ‘St. Louis Rams’, as the offseason looks set to be dominated by L.A franchise news. Will it be the Rams? If so, will the keep the front office in tact? Nobody knows at the moment. Losing to the 49ers on Sunday will have not done Jeff Fisher many favours, though. (DV) 22. Chicago Bears (6-10) Last week: #21 GS = 24, DV = 25, EH = 22, RC = 21, TD = 24, PH = 17, NH = 19, DP = 22, RR = 24 Jay Cutler has been a revelation this season, until this week when ‘bad’ Cutler emerged. This game was the only time Cutler threw multiple interceptions in a game all year. The organisation has gone all in on Cutler, with Ryan Pace saying they will build their offense around him but who will be there to do it? Adam Gase likely won’t and his replacement will have a tough job getting a repeat out of Cutler. (DP) 23. Miami Dolphins (6-10) Last week: #28 GS = 21, DV = 19, EH = 26, RC = 27, TD = 23, PH = 24, NH = 23, DP = 24, RR = 23 Only the Dolphins would play like the worst team in football for a few good weeks then beat the Patriots with nothing on the line. Dan Campbell has the support of seemingly everyone, yet nobody thinks he will be the permanent head coach. (DV) 24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10) Last week: #22 GS = 27, DV = 26, EH = 23, RC = 19, TD = 25, PH = 23, NH = 24, DP = 23, RR = 25 That was poor against the Panthers, with some players playing as if the fires had gone out. Jameis Winston was right to call out some of the team in his post-season press conference and better effort will be required next year if they are to build on the foundations they set down this year. (DP) 25. New York Giants (6-10) Last week: #24 GS = 25, DV = 24, EH = 24, RC = 24, TD = 22, PH = 22, NH = 25, DP = 29, RR = 22 Tom Coughlin chose to walk off into the sunset on his own terms, leaving the Giants after a loss to the Eagles and a third straight losing season. The man who bought the Giants back to football relevance leaves with his dignity however, and after declaring his intention to carry on coaching, should be the top of the coaches-for-hire tree. (DV) 26. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) Last week: #25 GS = 26, DV = 28, EH = 25, RC = 26, TD = 26, PH = 26, NH = 27, DP = 28, RR = 27 After flattering to deceive at the end of November / early –December, the Jags reverted to type in the last few weeks of the season, with another pitiful performance ensuring a 3rd straight loss. Drastic changes are needed on the defensive side of the ball but the Blake Bortles led offense has showed promise for the future. Next year, the team will have to deliver or Shad Khan’s patience with the coaching staff and front office will surely run out. (DP) 27. Baltimore Ravens (5-11) Last week: #26 GS = 22, DV = 27, EH = 29, RC = 28, TD = 27, PH = 28, NH = 26, DP = 27, RR = 26 The Ravens are in a similar spot to all the teams around them, they have to fill a lot of holes on their roster as well as get a big boost from returning players. Though they do have a something the others don’t, a solid organisation. (RC) 28. San Diego Chargers (4-12) Last week: #27 GS = 28, DV = 29, EH = 27, RC = 25, TD = 30, PH = 27, NH = 29, DP = 25, RR = 29 The Chargers make the Broncos sweat on Sunday, but ultimately fell short. Relieving offensive coordinator Frank Reich of his duties will mean a new offensive playbook next season for Philip Rivers. Whether it’s also with a new head coach and in new surroundings remains to be seen. (DV) 29. San Francisco 49ers (5-11) Last week: #30 GS = 29, DV = 22, EH = 28, RC = 29, TD = 28, PH = 32, NH = 28, DP = 26, RR = 28 Jim Tomsula never stood a chance. With the roster San Francisco put forward this year 5 wins is a good return. The players played hard right to the end – blocking a game winning FG in overtime before driving to win with one of their own. A team that had quit on its coach would not have done that. The 49ers vacancy has lost a lot of its lustre given the ownership and GM mismanagement of the past 12 months. (DP) 30. Dallas Cowboys (4-12) Last week: #29 GS = 30, DV = 30, EH = 30, RC = 30, TD = 29, PH = 29, NH = 30, DP = 30, RR = 30 The Cowboys need to improve their defense as well as hope they get certain players back and fully healthy in order to get back into the playoffs. (RC) 31. Cleveland Browns (3-13) Last week: #31 GS = 31, DV = 31, EH = 32, RC = 31, TD = 31, PH = 30, NH = 31, DP = 31, RR = 31 Fun fact – the last non-Browns AFC North coach that was fired was the Ravens’ Brian Billick in 2007. Since then, six coaches have come and gone in Cleveland. Mike Pettine is the last (along with general manager Ray Farmer), who is going to be the next victim? (DV) 32. Tennessee Titans (3-13) Last week: #32 GS = 32, DV = 32, EH = 31, RC = 32, TD = 32, PH = 31, NH = 32, DP = 32, RR = 32 GM Ruston Webster is gone, and he leaves behind possibly the least talented roster in the entire NFL. The next GM would be wise to hope someone falls in love with a player in next year’s draft and is willing to ship some picks to Tennessee so they can address the talent deficit. (DP) American Football Development is a British-American company dedicated to bringing the genuine culture of American football to the UK and beyond. 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