Tag, you're it. - Norm Hall
A Christmas Edition of our weekly NFL Power Rankings wrap-up.
The NFC North held up its end as the best division in the NFL, with the top three teams in the Black and Blue Division all winning. Oh, and there was the Lions, but we know how that ended up. The first-place Packers
defeated annihilated the Titans 55-7 to improve to 11-4, while the Vikings helped out their playoff chances immensely with a 23-6 road victory over the Houston Texans.
The Bears kept their chances for a playoff spot alive with a 28-13 win against the hapless Cardinals, but lost Chris Conte and possibly Matt Forte in the process. Both the Vikings and Bears are now 9-6, and the simple fact is: if the Vikings win, they get the playoff spot. If the Vikings lose and Bears win, Bears are in. The Vikings travel to Green Bay in week seventeen, so it won't be a cakewalk for them, while the Bears travel to... Detroit, to face the 4-11 Lions. The Lions are bad, but there's nothing they'd love more than to keep the Bears from making the playoffs.
Power Rankings Time! As always, the links are in the table.
|Packers 11-4||5 (6)||4 (6)||3 (6)||3 (6)||5 (9)||5 (5)|
|Vikings 9-6||11 (14)||12 (15)||9 (12)||13 (16)||23 (27)||16 (20)|
|Bears 9-6||13 (15)||13 (14)||14 (17)||11 (10)||12 (17)||6 (6)|
|Lions 4-11||27 (27)||28 (28)||28 (29)||27 (28)||13 (14)||15 (14)|
The Packers are back as a top-5 team according to our rankers, and having won nine of their last ten, its hard to argue against them as a legitimate Super Bowl contender again. The Bears got a small bump thanks to the Cardinals' victory, although they dropped in the NFL.com rankings. I would argue about that spot drop, but NFL.com had the Bears the highest ranked last week amongst our subjective pollsters last week, and are still ahead of the Colts and Vikings.
Speaking of the Vikings, they just haven't got the respect their record deserves in the rankings. They bumped up at least three spots in every poll we included, even cracking the top-10 in the ProFootballTalk rankings. I think it comes down to the perception that the team is Adrian Peterson carries that team to any victory it gets. That's mostly true, but the offensive line has been solid, and the defense has been good enough to prevent teams from numerous late-game comebacks. Their ineffective passing game, however, is a prime example of why the Vikings are ranked 23rd in the AdvancedNFLStats efficiency ratings list.
Meanwhile, on the bottom of NFC North, the Lions have fallen about as far as they can in the rankings, but still hold out hope for ruining the Bears' playoff chances. And while the Chiefs are almost universally regarded as the worst team in the NFL, there is some discussion as to who the #1 team in the NFL is right now. The Broncos received three of the top spots in the polls we looked at, while the Falcons received two. Arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now claimed the other spot, the Seahawks, in Football Outsiders weighted DVOA rankings.
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears defense had their best defensive game since week 10, and currently rank as the third best defense they've tracked, behind only the 1991 Eagles and 2002 Buccaneers. Obviously, that means the Bears have the top-ranked defense in the NFL this season according to them, while the special teams are fourth best and the offense... is 24th.
So what do you think of the rankings? Whose the best team in the NFL? Who should be ranked higher - the Bears or the Vikings? Hit up the comments section with your thoughts, and any other rankings you've come across.