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2017 NFL Power Rankings: The Final Stretch

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Matt Weston ranks the NFL teams 32-1 through the first twelve games of the season.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t like traditional power rankings. They overreact to one HUGE win and one SAD! loss. Rarely do they take in account the entire season or even the last few weeks. To give a more accurate representation of what’s going on and where these teams stand, I will not equivocate or give into the quick tug of heartstrings the NFL season brings by default. Here’s my opinion on where these teams stand through the first twelve games of the season.

The Worst:

32.) Cleveland Browns—Record: 0-12. Point Differential: -132 (32). DVOA: -27.0.% (29). Previous (32).

Development is not linear. It was expected for the Browns to have like, I don’t know, THREE wins right now. They don’t. They have zero. They aren’t going to win a game. To end the season they play Green Bay, Baltimore, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. And it doesn’t matter. They have two top seven picks. They can trade down and make more. Although this year was another disaster, they still have young talent, and when they break through, it will be when no one expects it.

31.) Denver Broncos- Record: 3-9. Point Differential: -109 (30). DVOA: -33.8% (32). Previous (18).

In 2015 the Denver Broncos won a Superbowl. They carried Peyton Manning’s swollen and seeping rattlesnake bitten face across the desert and into the comfort of the retirement home, sending the sheriff out into the west to drink crappy beer and crappier pizza, and making him the worst quarterback to ever win a Superbowl. They are now forever cursed at the quarterback position. Since this win they have trotted out Trevor Siemian, who’s play had been so egregious they brought back [name redacted], and their former first round pick, Paxton Lynch is more Admiral Nelson than Captain Morgan.

It’s not to say they won’t play good football ever again. It’s to say they will never have a good quarterback again.

30.) New York Giants- Record: 2-10. Point Differential: -102 (29). DVOA: -24.8% (28). Previous (29).

Eli Manning is a mediocre quarterback who went 8-0 in two playoff runs. He is a better version of Joe Flacco. People love and cherish him because of his last name and because he beat the Patriots twice. Other than that he’s been simply ok. I could care less about his streak, he’s lived his best life.

Ben McAddo benched Manning to get fired. His team hated him, the fans hated him, he hated himself with his stupid cool man haircut. He’s probably in Antigua right now instead of marching through this dark procession.

29.) Indianapolis Colts—Record: 3-9. Point Differential: -125 (31). DVOA: -26.6% (28). Previous (31).

The Colts’ offense is so slow they made Paul Posluszny look like Luke Kuechly. As I’ve become an adult my sports’ fandom is more about love than hate. Except the Colts. I hate everything about that franchise.

28.) San Francisco 49ers—Record: 2-10. Point Differential: -96 (28). DVOA: -24.4% (27). Previous (30).

I’m ecstatic that Jimmy G! is out of New England and in San Francisco. There aren’t enough quarterbacks for the Patriots to be hoarding them like an insane person with cats in her freezer. He looks like a starting quarterback. His arm strength is easy, he’s mobile, he’s tall and accurate. The one issue he has had since college, and one that he already showed again in his first start, is fear in the pocket, and an inability to maneuver around it. Constantly, he was leaking outside rather than patiently hanging. If he can dodge enough tennis balls to figure this out, or if Kyle Shanahan can mitigate it with scheme, or if John Lynch can mold a great pass blocking offensive line, he’s going to be a very good starting quarterback.

27.) Miami Dolphins—Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -89 (26). DVOA: -27.3% (31). Previous (26).

TAKE THAT FOR DATA.

26.) Chicago Bears—Record: 3-9. Point Differential: -76 (25). DVOA: -20.4% (26). Previous (25).

The Bears have been the most fun bad team this season. Mitchell Trubisky’s stat lines are hilarious. He’s running the same offense the Eisenhower Generals run. Tarik Cohen is all that is beautiful in this world. Kyle Fuller is good again. Their front seven is nasty. They’ve been in a lot of their games.

25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -45 (23). DVOA: -15.9% (25). Previous (28).

The Bucs have extracted as little as they possibly could out of their talent.

The Mediocre:

24.) Arizona Cardinals—Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -91 (27). DVOA: -11.9% (23). Previous (21).

Their defense is spectacular, both against the run and the pass. Chandler Jones has been even better than he was in New England. Their draft strategy of loading up on defensive players they never would have had the chance to draft if it wasn’t for the number of quarterbacks being selected has worked. The problem is they don’t have a quarterback. Putting that much faith in Carson Palmer is dumb now, it was dumb in March. It will be interesting to see how they fix up the quarterback position.

Good for Blaine Gabbert to evolve from the worst quarterback in the NFL, to a competent backup. A real hero’s journey.

23.) Houston Texans- Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -13 (16). DVOA: -5.1% (19). Previous (27).

The Texans are all in the infirmary. They have the talent, and quarterback to compete right away next year.

22.) Cincinnati Bengals—Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -19 (18). DVOA: -2.9% (18). Previous (23).

The great experiment is over. Building an Andy Dalton led offense with skill players instead of an offensive line doesn’t work.

21.) New York Jets—Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -22 (19). DVOA: -15.4% (24). Previous (24).

I really have enjoyed watching this team play. Whoever quarterbacks them next year, which could be a McCown?, is going to have a nice stable of skill players. Todd Bowles is going to keep his job. And this defense could be a top ten one next year.

20.) Buffalo Bills- Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -56 (24). DVOA: -11.2% (22). Previous (12).

Being a Bills fan must be the worst thing in the world. To not make the playoffs this millennium, have the AFC break this perfectly, start off as strong as they did, bench Tygod Taylor for a rookie who throws five interceptions in a half, beat the Chiefs with Taylor, and then lose him the following week, when all they need to do is beat Miami twice to possible make the playoffs is lugubrious. I don’t know how they do it.

19.) Oakland Raiders—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -29 (21). DVOA: -5.4% (21). Previous (17).

Regardless of their record, this team is bad, and they are boring to watch.

18.) Washington Redskins- Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -42 (22). DVOA: -0.1% (17). Previous (15).

I’m tired of this Kirk Cousins bad or good argument. He’s a good quarterback. He’ll never be elite. He’ll have turnover problems, and he misses receivers high too often, but he’s a competent starter. If you have a good team around him, you’ll win games. Injuries have killed Washington’s season, not Cousins. I hope he finally finds a forever home, instead of getting tagged, because he’s isn’t ‘elite’ enough.

17.) Dallas Cowboys—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: +2 (15). DVOA: 5.3% (12). Previous (10).

The Cowboys don’t have the offensive firepower to score without Ezekiel Elliot. They have turned into a dump off machine. In his last four games Dak has had 5.87, 4.68, 6.63, and 4.64 yards an attempt. This is almost Flacconian. It’s not that he has lost it, it’s that they don’t have the receiving talent to be carried by their passing offense. That isn’t on Prescott.

Playoffs?

16.) Tennessee Titans- Record: 8-4. Point Differential: -16 (17). DVOA: -5.3% (20). Previous (13).

The worst team to make the playoffs, not because of talent but because of playcalling, your 2017 Tennessee Titans.

15.) Detroit Lions- Record: 6-6. Point Differential: +6 (14). DVOA: 3.6% (15). Previous (14).

The Lions are the most mediocre team in football. They better go 8-8 this season.

14.) Green Bay Packers- Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -23 (20). DVOA: 4.4% (13). Previous (19).

If the Packers make the playoffs and Aaron Rodgers pulls this off I’m going to lose it. Green Bay should suffer through at least one season where they don’t know competent quarterback play, so they know what life is like for the rest of us muggles. Instead, they have to beat Cleveland, and then they get Rodgers for the last three weeks. One of which is against Carolina, who they are trying to bump out of the playoffs. This is really going to happen, isn’t it?

13.) Kansas City Chiefs- Record: 6-6. Point Differential: +29 (13). DVOA: 10.1% (11). Previous (6).

The Chiefs are the 2016 Vikings who are the 2015 Falcons. Their defense is miserable, they can’t tackle, and their linebackers are slower than cheese through the gut. Their offense is stagnant. I’m sad we won’t be able to watch them lose in the divisional round.

12.) Los Angeles Chargers—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: +56 (10). DVOA: 2.0% (16). Previous (22).

The Chargers beat the Browns last Sunday. I’m so proud of them. That’s usually a game they lose. The mirror breaking Chargers have always had the talent to be a ten win team, they just loooooove late game losses more. They should win the AFC West, but they never do what they should.

11.) Baltimore Ravens—Record: 7-5. Point Differential: +73 (7). DVOA: 23.0% (5). Previous (20).

If Flacco can throw deep passes this team is scary, wearing all-black, and having the best defense and special teams in football. I love how they have eight late round picks on their front seven that are all enormous monsters grown out of a liquid snake test tube. I’m dying for Jacksonville v. Baltimore in the wildcard round.

10.) Atlanta Falcons- Record: 7-5. Point Differential: +30 (12). DVOA: 4.3% (14). Previous (16).

Atlanta isn’t making the playoffs.

9.) Carolina Panthers- Record: 8-4. Point Differential: +31 (11). DVOA: 10.7% (10). Previous (11).

The Panthers are just outside the NFC’s elite. They are good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to win a playoff game.

8.) Jacksonville Jaguars—Record: 8-4. Point Differential: +121 (4). DVOA: 14.5% (8). Previous (9).

There is a case to be made for the Jags turning the playoffs into bedlam. They can run the ball, they have one of the best pass defenses in football, and they can stop the run some now that they traded for Marcell Dareus. They have already beaten Pittsburgh. How do you beat the Patriots? You get a pass rush and force Tom Brady into interceptions and score touchdowns in the redzone. The Jags can do all of these things.

The Contenders:

8.) Seattle Seahawks- Record: 8-4. Point Differential: +68 (T-8). DVOA: 10.9% (9). Previous (8).

Really glad they learned how to throw Jimmy Graham touchdowns in the redzone. The Duane Brown trade came at the perfect time since their entire secondary was sent to the IR immediately afterwards. Russell Wilson doesn’t need a great offensive line, he just needs a spat of time to be incredible. Brown has made the entire offensive line better, and that’s all Wilson has needed.

5.) Los Angeles Rams- Record: 9-3. Point Differential: +139 (2). DVOA: 32.4% (1). Previous (5).

I know the numbers. I see the math. They are 9-3. But never have I felt that the Rams are a great team. It’s just a feeling I get when I look to the West that isn’t based on film or statistical analysis. That stuff is for nerds and losers anyways.

7.) Minnesota Vikings- Record: 10-2. Point Differential: +81 (6). DVOA: 22.4% (6). Previous (7).

KEEEEEEEEEEEENUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM

4.) New England Patriots- Record: 10-2. Point Differential: +123 (3). DVOA: 20.2% (7). Previous (4).

Of course they turned their talentless defense into an average enough unit. Of course making Dion Lewis their every down running back has worked. Of course Rob Gronkowski is starting to pour it up. Of course Rex Burkhead is great. Of course they are going to win the AFC.

3.) Pittsburgh Steelers- Record: 10-2. Point Differential: +68 (T-8) DVOA: 26.5% (4). Previous (3).

I never want to watch another Steelers-Bengals game again. They are sick and repulsive.

2.) New Orleans Saints—Record: 9-3. Point Differential: +110 (5). DVOA: 29.8% (3). Previous (2).

I’m rarely right about anything. But I am right that the Saints are a Superbowl contender, and they are still my pick to win it all.

1.) Philadelphia Eagles- Record: 10-2. Point Differential: +146 (1). DVOA: 32.4% (2). Previous (11).

The Saints are probably better, the Eagles have a better resume.

3/4 Awards

MVP: Tom Brady—Quarterback New England Patriots

Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown—Wide Receiver Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year: Bobby Wagner—Linebacker Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara—Runningback New Orleans Saints

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore—Cornerback New Orleans Saints

Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen—Wide Receiver Los Angeles Chargers

Superbowl: New Orleans Saints Over New England Patriots