USA TODAY Sports

NFL Power 12 rankings – Week 13: Playoff races heat up

Power rankings & sorting out the playoff chase

Seth Dunlap
November 27, 2018 - 8:02 pm
Categories: 

As the final month of the season approaches, the playoff races are, expectedly, heating up.  Only the division battles in the NFC West, NFC South, and AFC East are truly forgone conclusions.  The five other divisions likely won’t be settled until Christmas approaches, or after. 

The jockeying for Wild Card positioning in both conferences is becoming highly intriguing.  The Seahawks may have wiped away playoff hopes in both Green Bay and Carolina in the span of 10 days, while suddenly rejuvenated Dallas and Indianapolis are two of the league’s hottest teams.

Here are my playoff projections, and Power 12 rankings, for Week 13.  As usual, this list included only my projected playoff field.  It’s not your usual power rankings list.

 

NFL Power 12 - Week 13

1.  New Orleans Saints (10-1) LW-#1:  Everything is right in front of the Saints.  A division title, first round bye, and home field advantage in the playoffs are within their grasp, but their margin for error may quite literally be zero.  The Rams will be favored in all of their remaining games, and a 15-1 season for Los Angeles certainly wouldn’t be surprising at this point.  That means even one New Orleans loss the rest of the way could mean an NFC championship game on the road. Last week:  W 31-17 vs. ATL (THX), This week: @ DAL (TNF)

2.  Los Angeles Rams (10-1) LW-#2:  The Rams used the bye week to figure out how to deal with the loss of standout receiver Cooper Kupp, although it didn’t look like they needed him in their shootout win against the Rams.  Bigger, perhaps, is the pending return of cornerback Aqib Talib who would bring more stability to a secondary that has been shredded by some of the league’s better quarterbacks over the past two months.  The Rams' road trip to Detroit this week is a little appetizer for their game in Chicago next Sunday night. Last week: BYE, This week: @ DET

3.  Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) LW-#3:  The Chiefs can’t afford to be caught looking ahead coming out of their bye week.  After this week’s jaunt to Oakland, they get three straight games against probable playoff teams.  Meanwhile, the Chargers are still nipping at their heels in the AFC West.  Everything from the top overall seed into the playoff to a spot in Wild Card weekend is still possible for Kansas City.  Like the NFC teams ahead of them on this list, there’s little margin for error if they want the AFC playoffs to run through Arrowhead Stadium – a frightening proposition for other teams in the conference. Last week: BYE, This week: @ OAK

4.  New England Patriots (8-3) LW-#5:  While it’s only a matter of time before the Patriots clinch their 10th consecutive division title – a remarkable feat in an era full of remarkable accomplishments for this New England dynasty – their eyes are, as usual, on the bigger prize.  Win out, and home field advantage is a distinct possibility, especially with their tiebreaker win over the Chiefs.  Games against Minnesota (this Sunday) and Pittsburgh (Dec. 16th) are crucial for the entire complexion of the AFC playoffs. Last week: W 27-13 @ NYJ, This week: vs. MIN

5.  Chicago Bears (8-3) LW-#6:  Everybody keeps waiting for Chicago to come back to the pack in the NFC North.  It’s not happening.   The Bears just won a game on the road with a career backup quarterback who had three days of preparation.  They’ve now won five straight games and have given themselves slight breathing room in the division.  They can even lose a game and still control their own destiny in the NFC North.  If they win out they might have a chance to catch the Rams or Saints, should they stumble, for one of the top two spots in the conference.  Any January playoff game at Soldier Field is going to be a bit terrifying for the opposition.  Last week:  W 25-20 vs. MIN, This week: @ DET (THX)

6.  Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) LW-7: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers nearly-perfect day helped the team quickly move on from last week’s loss to the Broncos – their only defeat since September.  Wild Card teams used to win Super Bowls with relative frequency.  From the 2005 thru 2010 seasons the feat happened three times, with the Steelers (2005), Giants (2007), and Packers (2010) hosting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of those season.  It hasn’t happened since.  In fact, no Wild-Card team since that Packers team has even made a Super Bowl.  The Chargers, if they finish at the AFC’s fifth seed, would be the biggest Super Bowl threat as a Wild Card team since the 49ers in 2013.  Last week: W 45-10 vs. ARI, This week: @ PIT

7.  Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1) LW-4:  What a dreadful loss for the Steelers in Denver.  That’s no shot at the Broncos, who’ve suddenly become a part of the AFC’s playoff hunt, but Pittsburgh will likely have to win out to have any shot at a first round bye in the playoffs.  The Steelers have a daunting final five weeks including home games against the Chargers and Patriots and a road trip to New Orleans a couple of days before Christmas.  Yikes.    Last Week: L 24-17 @ DEN, This week: vs. LAC (SNF)

8.  Houston Texans (8 -3) LW-#8:  The Texans schedule keeps offering up teams with non-winning records and Houston just keeps winning.  Make it a remarkable eight wins in a row after their 0-3 start, adding to their NFL record they set in Week 11.  If the opening sentence seemed like a backhanded compliment, consider this – the Texans could end their season with 15 straight games against teams without a winning record.  EDIT:  It's been pointed out that the Patriots were technically a "non-winning team" during their game against the Texans in Week 1, meaning there's a chance Houston goes the entire regular season playing only teams at, or below, .500.  Incredible.  Last week:  W 34-17 vs. TEN (MNF), This week: vs. CLE

9. Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) LW-#9:  The Vikings won a critical Sunday night showdown against Green Bay, effectively eliminating the Packers from the playoff chase.  With the NFC being pretty top-heavy, a nine win campaign (with five losses, one tie) would likely be enough to get Minnesota into the playoffs.  They have a slight edge on Seattle, Carolina, and Washington who are all a half game back of the Vikings. Now, a critical two-week stretch where they play in New England and Seattle.  Last week: W 24-17 vs. GB, This week: @ NE

10.  Seattle Seahawks (6-5) LW-#UR:  The Seahawks spent the last two weeks “already in the playoffs” according to head coach Pete Carroll.   Wins against the Packers and Panthers give them critical advantages over those two teams as they chase a Wild Card playoff spot.  Three of their final five games are against the 49ers and Cardinals, games the Seahawks will be heavily favored in.  The throw of the season may have been Russell Wilson’s 35 yard absurdity on 4th-and-Seattle’s season late in the game on Sunday (see below).  I’m not sure there’s more than a handful of quarterbacks in history that attempt that throw in that spot.  Cajones! Last week:  W 30-27 @ CAR, This week: vs. SF

11.  Indianapolis Colts (6-5) LW-11:  The Andrew Luck-for-MVP campaign is heating up.  Luck won’t win the award unless Drew Brees unexpectedly starts looking his age over the final month, but he’s a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year.  The playoffs will certainly be more intriguing with him in it.  Shout out to head coach Frank Reich, who is apparently the king of the comeback as a head coach too.  Last week:  W 27-24 vs. MIA, This week: @ JAX

12.  Dallas Cowboys (6-5) LW-12:  Most people are still unsure how to handicap the NFC East race.  The Cowboys have, for the moment, ascended to the top spot but Washington might not be quite-as-done as people think with Colt McCoy under center.  Plus, the Eagles are amazingly just a game out of first place.  Once again, this division likely won’t be decided until late December.   Last week: W 31-23 vs. WAS (THX), This week: vs. NO (TNF)

 

Dropping out: 

  • Carolina – LW #10

Previous Week's Rankings  

 

Comments ()