At this point in the NFL season we have seen enough on teams to actually begin to gather firm opinions on each one. Fans, the media, and even front offices have started to realize what teams actually have a realistic shot at the playoffs and who’ll be playing for Andrew Luck. Being the best team in the NFL doesn’t matter until you’re at least the best team in your conference, so I’ve split the NFL Power Rankings into the AFC and the NFC. The records are what they are, but I’ve become more comfortable with the teams as a whole instead of a particular teams most recent win or loss and that factors heavily into where they are ranked. Hopefully your team makes the cut and is one of the six listed above the fold.
Projected Playoff Teams
1. New England Patriots (8-3) - As bad as the defensive rankings are, it’s not appearing to be a factor in recent weeks. The Patriots will coast to the #1 seed, thanks to the easiest schedule down the stretch. It’ll be hard for any team to go into Foxboro and beat this team in the playoffs.
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) – I personally think the Steelers are the better team but the Ravens swept them this year and both teams could end up with the same record. The number two seed is exactly what this Ravens need. They don’t play well on the road and if they can finish with the same or better record than the Steelers or Texans, they will get a first round bye and a home game in round 2.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) – The Steelers have to be kicking themselves for the two losses to the Ravens. They can only hope to finish at least one game better than Baltimore. If they don’t, they will go from having a possible first round bye, to having to play a wildcard game on the road.
4. Houston Texans (8-3) – For the third game in a row a different quarterback will start for the Texans. While Houston’s schedule is rather easy over the last five games, the toughest two opponents are the next two weeks. TJ Yates is as poised as you could ask a 5th round rookie quarterback to be but if he struggles against these tougher opponents he may lack the confidence for the remaining three.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – We mention the Bengals as one of those tough opponents for the Texans’ rookie quarterback. Sticking with rookie quarterbacks, Andy Dalton will face the Steelers, Texans, and Ravens defense in three of the final 5 weeks. Those teams’ defenses are ranked 1,2, and 3 in total defense.
6. Denver Broncos (6-5) – Looking at the remaining schedules of the Raiders, Broncos, Jets, and Titans, I can see them all finishing with 9 wins. If that’s the case the Broncos will take the division in my opinion as they are 3-2 in the division with one game remaining in the division and the Raiders have two games left and stand at 2-2 in the division. They split their season series.
Outside Looking In
7. Oakland Raiders (7-4) – I’m probably the only one who hasn’t been impressed with the Raiders as of late. Carson Palmer needs to win a Super Bowl in the next two years for the trade to make sense. If they don’t make the playoffs this year, in the weakest division in football, what would have been the point of Palmer. They can’t even separate from a Broncos team that was 1-4.
8 New York Jets (6-5) – This is a team to watch out for. Mark Sanchez still isn’t playing great football but the team is picking him up. You can’t rule out a team that’s gone to the last two AFC Championship games. But I’ll say it again like I’ve said the last few years, they can’t get over the hump until they get a franchise quarterback. This team should be a #1 seed. Instead they are in a four team race for the last wildcard spot.
9. Tennessee Titans (6-5) – If Chris Johnson can continue to produce like he did last week, the Titans can hang around in games and hopefully, for them, pull out enough wins. They shouldn’t be struggling at home against a down Bucs team but that’s what happened. Even with CJ running for a 190 yards, they had to have a 4th down touchdown to win. They are average but could win 3 out of the last 4 games and force pressure on the wildcard and even the division going into the matchup with Houston the last week of the season.
11. Buffalo Bills (5-6) – The Jets laid out the blueprint, stop Fred Jackson and stop the Bills. It’s been working pretty well for all of their opponents since then and now Jackson is out. Every game will be a battle for the Bills down the stretch.
12. San Diego Chargers (4-7) – We’re just watching now to see the actual moment when Norv Turner gets fired. Turner was given the blueprints for a Ferrari and turned it into a DeLorean. I’m sure the Chargers wish they could time travel back to when they fired Marty Schottenheimer and make some changes.
10. Miami Dolphins (3-8) – I love watching this team. They could have given up a few weeks ago but refused to do so. They have rallied around each other and I think they will play spoiler to a few teams over the next several weeks. They will continue to figure out roles for their players but it will be all for nothing as the whole look will change next year with a new coach.
13. Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) – Todd Haley can hopefully get a discount ticket out of the AFC West with Norv Turner. They both have talented rosters but don’t know how to win.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) – The only question that came out of Jack Del Rio being fired was, what took so long. I applaud the Jaguars defense for the way they’ve been playing, even with 5 starters out with injuries. This team didn’t deserve to have a coach like Del Rio. Interesting to see the direction of this team after the changes, especially at QB.
15. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns get a pass this season. They had to deal with the Peyton Hillis drama and Montario Hardesty was injured for most of the season. The coach brought over a new offense and had to install it with a second year quarterback. This team could make strides next season with another draft under their belt.
16. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) - Weak! I’ve seen teams tank a season for a draft pick but I’ve never seen them do it in the first month of the season. And never so blatant. The Colts could have added Kyle Orton and now Donovan McNabb. Neither one have been great but both would have been upgrades over the Painter / Orlovsky travesty. Enjoy your #1 pick Indy, you earned it?!?
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock