Ken's Note: These rankings are the views of the author, and may/do not reflect the views of any other Windy City Gridiron contributor.
Welcome to the last 2016 Regular Season power Rankings. There's no point in doing one next week, since half the league will be playing their third stringers for their games and... frankly... the only Power Rankings that matter is who makes the playoffs and who sits at home. Since my rankings are based on game-day performance & this next weekend will be filled with a ton of "throw away" games, I’m doing what fantasy leagues everywhere do... pulling the plug at the end of week 16.
Power rankings are kind of silly and entirely meaningless, and they are also completely subjective... what one person sees as a strength another might see as a weakness. I get that. My reason for doing this feature isn't "I think I know better," but rather to entertain, hopefully amuse and also to generate friendly discussion and debate (within the site rules, of course).
My feature comes out later in the week than pretty much everybody else's on the web because I actually watch every single game I talk about BEFORE posted my rankings (as far as I know, I am the ONLY person doing this in the online media). Gamepass condensed games are the greatest tool ever made for the NFL football junkie. By doing this instead of just watching the highlights (if that) or browsing the box score, I suspect my list looks significantly different than most.
Here's how I have the league shaking out:
1) Patriots - (Last week's rating #1 ) Here’s me, not gushing about the Patriots. #1? Yes. Unbeatable? Hardly. Flawless? Nope. Next.
2) Cowboys - (Last week's rating #2 ) I would like to send my personal thanks to Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones & Coach Jason Garrett for sending the Full Meal Deal out there against the hated Lions. The Boys played their starters until the game was out of hand both to keep their team in sync and because of the integrity of the game (putting your best effort against a playoff team). Thank you for doing that. I don’t like you, but I do appreciate what you did.
3) Steelers - (Last week's rating #7 ) Le’Veon Bell. Good people, if you love watching a great running back at his absolute prime, then watch Bell in this last game. For those of us who love the running game, this was an absolute clinic of patience and explosiveness. This Steelers team can beat anybody, anywhere.
4) Chiefs - (Last week's rating #5 ) Alex Smith may (or may not be) in danger of losing his starting job to Dontari Poe, who was perfect on the night in the passing department including a TD with no picks. Kansas City laid down the law and ran up, over, around and through the vaunted Denver Defense, and entirely shut down Denver’s anemic offense. Take the Chiefs for granted this year at your own Peril.
5) Falcons - (Last week's rating #6 ) Matt Ryan should be the hands-down MVP of the league. He’s on point and on fire. This Atlanta team has figured out how to play just a bit of defense, while that offense is frightening.
6) Dolphins - (Last week's rating #10 ) I don’t know how anybody except Adam Gase should be inconsideration for Coach Of The Year. The job the former Bears assistant has done is absolutely fantastic, especially considering the injury to Ryan Tannehill.
7) Packers - (Last week's rating #12 ) Aaron Rodgers has returned to God Level. Jordy Nelson is a guy you probably want to cover with your best DB. The pass rush on defense is doing a great job, and Clinton-Dix is legit one of the very best safeties in the game. Other than that, the Packers are not very good. Is God Level Rodgers and a couple of other guys playing well good enough? We shall see.
8) Giants - (Last week's rating #4 ) Losing to the last place Eagles on Nation TV isn’t the kind of thing you want to do going into the playoffs, but that’s what happens when you turn the ball over. Eli Manning had a bad night, and we were not impressed by the effort.
9) Texans - (Last week's rating #1 ) Ah, that old "bad division" thing... the Texans found a way to break out of the mid-season slump and win despite having no JJ Watt for most of the season and paying 75 Bazillion Dollars for a quarterback who should be saying "would you like fries with that order, sir?" instead of "hurry hurry".
10) Raiders - (Last week's rating #3 ) My heart goes out to Derek Carr & Marcus Mariota both, as both of these great young players went down to season-ending injuries as their teams fought for playoff positioning. I’m slaughtering the Raiders in the rankings because Carr was the driving force behind this team. To have any chance at all, they need to beat Denver this week. As bad as Denver is this year, that’s still a big ask to go on the road with a backup quarterback and face that defense. Oakland needs to get off the bus running, but they do have weapons. Folks, it was 33-14 when Carr went down with about 10 to go in the fourth, and the game ended up 33-25. That’s gotta worry Oakland fans.
11) Seahawks - (Last week's rating #9 ) Losing to Arizona, at home, shows how vulnerable this Seahawks team is. Doug Baldwin had a monster night, but the Seahawks mostly sleepwalked through the entire game. Cam Chancellor got owned when it mattered, the pass rush didn’t kill Carson Palmer, I could go on but... good teams don’t lose to 5-8 teams at home like this, they just don’t. If they weren’t a lock for the playoffs, this rating would be much lower.
12) Lions - (Last week's rating #8 ) Dear Lions: If you guys lay down against the Packers, I will mock you without mercy all off-season.
13) Redskins - (Last week's rating #19 ) Well, that was a bit of an ass kicking they gave us, wasn’t it. Holy Cow. Washington is still in the hunt, personally I am rooting for the combination that has them in the playoffs and our division mates sitting at home.
14) Ravens - (Last week's rating #15 ) How can you lose and go up a bit? Simple, play that good of a game against a very, very hot Pittsburgh team at Pittsburgh. Baltimore isn’t there this year, and the question become when it’s time to look for that youth movement to take over.
15) Buccaneers - (Last week's rating #15 ) For all of you who have been bashing me about Tampa being underrated... ummm, no. They are 8-7, yes, but that negative points differential keeps climbing as they keep getting beaten by mediocre team after mediocre team.
16) Colts - (Last week's rating #17 ) Note to Indy: you know that fake field goal play? Pull it out of your playbook and burn it. Nobody but your opponents ever want to see that again. Additionally, a couple of more things. Turnovers are bad, you might want to stop doing them, m’kay? Tell Andrew Luck what color jerseys you are wearing before the game, in case he gets confused like he did at Oakland. Oh, and when that guy is handed the ball and he starts to run up the middle? You can actually tackle him in the first 20 yard, it is allowed. Got it?
17) Titans - (Last week's rating #13 ) Damn. Marcus Mariota is one of my favorite players in this league, and to see him and (another one of my favorites) Derek Carr both go down like that sucks. Big props to Tennessee for the great strides they have made this year, this is my early favorite for that division next year. They are ascending like a rocket.
18) Chargers - (Last week's rating #18 ) Dudes. You lost to Cleveland. Dudes. DUDES!!!
19) Cardinals - (Last week's rating #20 ) Every once in a while we are reminded that Arizona has talent, and this is one of those games. The problem is, as much as I love a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, he and Carson Palmer are like 104 years old each. Something’s gotta be done to get that team age down in the desert. Great job in knocking off Seattle, and exposing them for what they are.
20) Broncos - (Last week's rating #16 ) I can understand getting blown out and humiliated on the road at Arrowhead by the greatest passing quarterback of our generation, Dontari Poe. Oh, wait... no, I can’t. For all those cheap shot comments over all the years we have taken from Denver Broncos fans... I present the following highlight:
Goodnight, Denver playoff hopes, sweet dreams.
21) Vikings - (Last week's rating #21 ) Getting humiliated by Green Bay, the whole "rebellious DB’s" fiasco, did they mutiny blah blah yadda yadda, don’t care. Skol, baby. Skol.
22) Bills - (Last week's rating #22 ) This was the kind of game that will get your coaching staff fired. So, it did. Ryan’s out, Tyrod Taylor benched, etc. Here’s the secret about Buffalo though, this is a GOOD opportunity for whoever coaches them next, they’ve got some real talent on that team. They have holes to fill, but they just need to reload a bit, not rebuild.
23) Saints - (Last week's rating #23 ) OK, the Saints beat the Bucs. I watched the game Sunday and, honestly, I don’t remember a single thing about New Orleans in the game other than that they won. So... I got nuttin...
24) Panthers - (Last week's rating #24 ) I was a horrible high school student for many reasons, but mainly my terrible grades were centered around the fact that I just didn’t apply myself, at all, to any class that didn’t interest me... and most didn’t. I nearly flunked out, I mean my grades were BAD. Because of a quirk in where I lived, I was able to go to college at a good four-year private school but have the first two years of it through a community college (long story, just roll with it) so I got admitted even though I had about a D average in HS. I went to college, and found that every course I was in interested me, and that when I could pick-and-choose my classes it was actually fun to learn. I also knew that to get the last two years I would need grades and scholarships, so I worked hard and pulled a 4.0 my first semester. When the grades came in the mail (they were addressed to me) I opened them up and... beaming with pride... I handed them to my mother. She stared at the paper with an odd expression on her face, which slowly turned from that look I had never seen before into a raging anger. She reached down, picked up a couch pillow and launched it at my head. I ducked and stepped back and she looked at me with (apparent) murder in her eyes. "How dare you..." she hissed... "How DARE you!!!!" I was shocked and flabbergasted. "How dare I get good grades?" She crumpled up the paper in her right hand, and stuck out the index finger of motherly righteousness and hissed "I TOLD you you were smart, you could have been doing this ALL ALONG! All those trips to school, all of those teachers meetings where I had to listen to 'he has ulimited potential if only he would apply himself'... You could have been doing THIS all along instead!" holding out the grade card... "All... along..."
Why on Earth do I bring this story up now, 36 years later? Because my mother would have known EXACTLY what Carolina coaches and fans were feeling after this game.
PS: I have told the above story many times in her presence, as did my mother with a laugh and a smile, before she passed. She did admit that she may have had a bit of an overreaction.
25) Eagles - (Last week's rating #26 ) I don’t have much to say about the Eagles. They beat the Giants in Pilly, so that’s good I suppose. Carson Wentz continues to show promise. I wish I could take a picture of my face right now, so you can see the tears that are falling... tears directly caused by the Eagles boring me to them.
26) Bengals - (Last week's rating #25 ) The "Best Bad Team In The NFL" lost another close game, this time to the Texans. They lead at half 3-0, and scored later on a huge catch & run by Brandon LaFell (one of those 80+ yard passes where the ball travels about 5 yards via the air jobs). Down by 2 (can nobody kick an extra point any more?) Andy Dalton drives Cincy down the field for a game-winning field goal and... wide right. Story of Cincy’s season. Ah well, at least the Bengals got very close to beating the one-and-done playoff bound Texans, right?
27) Jaguars - (Last week's rating #28 ) This Jaguars team shouldn’t be as bad as they have been all year, and this game showed they have the talent to back up that statement. Still, 3 wins doesn’t impress, even a little.
28) Bears - (Last week's rating #27 ) Well, that was a bit of a disaster now, wasn’t it? Down below Jacksonville we go.
29) Rams - (Last week's rating #29 ) The Rams lost to the Niners. Twice. Nuff said.
30) Jets - (Last week's rating #30 ) The Jets have reached their final destination, a place they have been traveling all season... full Brandon Marshall fueled melt-down dumpster-fire mode.
31) Browns - (Last week's rating #31 ) My favorite game of the weekend!!! Not only was it a game which further seals the LOLions’ place in NFL history, but it was also fun to watch. If you have Gamepass, watch this one. Not even kidding.
32) 49ers -(Last week's rating #32 ) The Niners can beat the Rams, this time going bold with a 2-point all-or-nothing gamble. They can’t beat anybody else, however. How bad are you to win two games and STILL finish out of top pick? Niners bad.
As always, tell us what I got right and what I got wrong. Don’t be shy!