There’s just one last week left to play in the NFL’s regular season, and there are 12 teams that are ultimately going to emerge from this scrum to play for the Lombardi Trophy in January.
The Patriots are clearly back at the top of the mountain once again, but the margin seems to be particularly small between these second-tier teams. We were confident that all of this would have worked itself out before now, but particularly in the NFC, it’s just far too tough to tell these teams apart.
Movin’ On Up
Los Angeles Chargers (Beat Jets 14-7)
It’s going to ultimately be too little, too late for the Chargers this year. They’re going to need to win in Week 17 and hope that the Titans lay an egg against the Jaguars. If Jacksonville had anything whatsoever to play for, we would have felt alright about that scenario. But with it locked into the No. 3 seed and getting ready to host most likely Tennessee in Wild Card weekend next week, there’s little reason to show much of anything to the Titans. The Bolts are going to kick themselves for all those games early in the year that were lost in the cruelest of fashion. They deserved a better fortune this year, but when you can’t make game-winning field goals, drive the field for fourth-quarter scores and turn the ball over too often early in games, these things are going to happen. It’s a sin, too, because Philip Rivers could have taken the Chargers on a big run in January.
San Francisco 49ers (Beat Jaguars 44-33)
The 49ers are finishing this year on a high note, winning four games in a row. They’re favored this week over the Rams in L.A., and there’s little reason to believe they won’t win a game with Jared Goff likely not even active and Todd Gurley surely being sparingly used at best. Still, the Niners are no joke. They did everything they could to put daggers in the Titans and Jaguars in the last two weeks, and the fact that they dumped 44 points on one of the best defenses in the NFL in Week 16 tells us all we need to know. It’s a good thing this team is nowhere near the playoffs, because there would be a slew of clubs shaking in their boots to face Jimmy Garoppolo in the postseason.
Movin’ On Down
Dallas Cowboys (Lost to Seahawks 21-12)
Jerry Jones couldn’t even stand to watch his Cowboys in the fourth quarter on Sunday against Seattle. In a game that had to be won to stay alive in the postseason, Dallas’ offense imploded. The team committed three turnovers, only one of which was really of the “forced” variety. Instead of finishing off drives with touchdowns, the Cowboys settled for six Dan Bailey field goal attempts. The defense played great, but the one drive in which it really needed to make a stand, it all of a sudden couldn’t figure out how to stop a mobile Russell Wilson. It was a disaster. Would the Cowboys have made the playoffs if Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t suspended? Perhaps. But this team doesn’t look anything like the team that dominated in the regular season last year.
Detroit Lions (Lost to Bengals 27-16)
The Lions have far too much talent at their disposal to be losing by double-digits to Cincinnati in Week 16 with a playoff spot on the line. Detroit was a complete no-show against a team that had made an art out of no-showing over the course of the last few weeks. Now, the Lions have been eliminated from the playoffs in a year in which everything looked to be set up for them with Aaron Rodgers missing over half the campaign. If this isn’t what ultimately sends Jim Caldwell out of town, we’re not sure what it’s going to take to get him fired.
NFL Power Rankings (Updated 12/27)
1: Philadelphia Eagles (13-2) (LW: 1)
2: New England Patriots (12-3) (LW: 2)
3: Minnesota Vikings (12-3) (LW: 3)
4: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) (LW: 4)
5: Los Angeles Rams (11-4) (LW: 5)
6: New Orleans Saints (11-4) (LW: 6)
7: Carolina Panthers (11-4) (LW: 7)
8: Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) (LW: 8)
9: Atlanta Falcons (9-6) (LW: 9)
10: Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) (LW: 10)
11: Baltimore Ravens (9-6) (LW: 11)
12: Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) (LW: 15)
13: San Francisco 49ers (5-10) (LW: 18)
14: Washington Redskins (7-8) (LW: 20)
15: Seattle Seahawks (9-6) (LW: 17)
16: Dallas Cowboys (8-7) (LW: 12)
17: Buffalo Bills (8-7) (LW: 13)
18: Detroit Lions (8-7) (LW: 14)
19: Tennessee Titans (8-7) (LW: 16)
20: Oakland Raiders (6-9) (LW: 19)
21: Arizona Cardinals (7-8) (LW: 24)
22: Green Bay Packers (7-8) (LW: 21)
23: Miami Dolphins (6-9) (LW: 22)
24: Denver Broncos (6-9) (LW: 23)
25: Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) (LW: 25)
26: New York Jets (5-10) (LW: 26)
27: Chicago Bears (5-10) (LW: 27)
28: Houston Texans (4-11) (LW: 28)
29: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) (LW: 29)
30: Indianapolis Colts (3-12) (LW: 30)
31: New York Giants (2-13) (LW: 31)
32: Cleveland Browns (0-15) (LW: 32)