With both the Patriots and a few other teams (Seattle with Marshawn Lynch, Cincinnati with Andy Dalton, Denver with whoever the hell their QB is gonna be) that health is far more important to a team’s success than the exact slot that they fall into with these rankings. The analysis for many teams could be either 100% right or 100% wrong depending on whether or not a few guys come back for the playoffs, so this post will be shorter than past analysis of FO’s rankings. Here are their Week 15 rankings.
- As always, we start with the Patriots. They improved form 5th overall in the league last week to 3rd — and 6th in weighted DVOA to 5th — with their masterful performance in Houston. The offense actually slipped from 19.8% above the mean to 19.4%, but the defense improved from -2.8% to -5.9%, which is a huge jump when there are already 12 previous games to influence the stats. While it was the lowly Houston Texans whom the Pats held to 6 points, it’s encouraging for Pats fans that the FO recognized New England’s defensive performance as being that dominant without Dont’a Hightower and a few others who got injured during the game.
- Cincinnati is ranked 1st overall, which shows how devastating the Andy Dalton injury could be if he can’t return. In 2011, the Texans lost out on their one realistic chance of winning it all because Matt Schaub got hurt when they had the look of a Super Bowl winner. The Bengals might have suffered the exact same fate. After years of being a Wild Card round punching bag, the Bengals have what it takes to win it all, and their season might die with A.J. McCarron. The Bengals have to pray that they somehow beat the Broncos in Denver in Week 16 en route to a 1st round bye and an extra week for Dalton to recover. The AFC 6th seed will be a pretty darn good 6th seed this year, and the Bengals might lose yet again as the 3 seed in the Wild Card game.
- Seattle is a great team, coming in at 2nd. They finally righted the ship like they did last year, only their recovery hasn’t gotten the same media attention that it did last year. They’re neck and neck with the Panthers and Cardinals in a 3 team race for the class of the NFC, and we should all be grateful that the Pats will only have to face a single team out of that trio in the playoffs.
- Kansas City is also a great team. They’re ranked 3rd overall without Jamaal Charles, which sounds like a joke. If they’re the 5th seed, which seems likely given their schedule the rest of the way that includes the local Girl Scouts and Perkins School for the Blind, then they’ll be clear favorites in Indianapolis or Houston in the Wild Card round. Half of people will say that “They’re just a better team, pick them,” and the other half will say “Inferior home teams often win in the Wild Card round when everyone and their mother is against them.” Usually, the latter is right, as evidenced by the Tebow Broncos, the 2010 Seahawks with the Beast Mode Earthquake run, and last year’s Panthers. This year, with these Chiefs and the particularly horrendous AFC South, the former will probably be correct.
- Denver’s offense has not improved much since Peyton Manning got “injured.” They were 32nd, now they’re 28th. Their defense is still menacing, but Brock Osweiler isn’t exactly an offensive savior. In Foxboro, I think the Pats would handle the Broncos easily, but they should always scare you at Mile High.
- Pittsburgh should also scare you a ton, regardless of where the game is. Their defense somehow clocks in at 12th overall, which I can’t understand for the life of me. The rest of the AFC has already dodged a huge bullet with Le’Veon Bell’s absence for the rest of the year.
- The Giants are the best team in the NFC East, if you didn’t already know that from them having the lead in just about every game this year with 75-90 seconds left in the game. I’m gonna write something soon about the NFC East, but let’s hope that the Giants don’t make the playoffs, which would be an upset at this point.
- Finally, the Indianpolis Colts are ranked 28th overall, by far the lowest of any team who isn’t already eliminated from January football. Andrew Luck might be injured, but that doesn’t explain twenty-freaking-eighth. Let’s hope and pray that the 3rd seeded Bengals beat the 6th seeded Steelers and the 4th seeded Colts somehow knock out the 5th seeded Jets or Chiefs, meaning that hte Broncos and Bengals knock each other out in the Divisional round while the Pats stomp on the Colts yet again. That way, the Pats would only have to play the Bengals, Broncos, OR Steelers en route to the Super Bowl. And you know what? That could very well happen.