Sunday, December 27, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

1. Carolina Panthers: Running back Jonathan Stewart may have been missing last week, but Cam Newton and the Panthers offense still managed to score 38 points in a win over the Giants. In two of the past three games, the Panthers defense has allowed 35 points or more, where even though Carolina's perfect season is alive and well, there are certain signs of the locomotive slowing down as the playoffs approach.

2. New England Patriots: One by one, Patriots stars are returning from the injuries they sustained earlier in the year, including Rob Gronkowski, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins. As seen with last week's game when both Chung and McCourty were sidelined, the most important thing for this Pats team is to remain the top seed while staying healthy. The addition of Steven Jackson will certainly help New England's nonexistent run game this season.
3. Arizona Cardinals: The loss of free safety Tyrann Mathieu to a torn ACL will be an incredibly costly injury to one of the best secondaries in football, but with Bruce Arians as the head coach, the Cardinals are still very much in contention. At the age of 35, Carson Palmer is having the best statistical season of his career (4,277 yards, 32 touchdowns, 106.7 passer rating), and he has a shot at amending his horrible playoff record (0-2 with a 66.5 passer rating in the postseason).

4. Seattle Seahawks: In one of the strangest turn of events, the Seattle Seahawks are 5-0 ever since Marshawn Lynch sustained an injury against the Cardinals. Quarterback Russell Wilson has caught fire over the last several weeks, especially when throwing the ball to receiver Doug Baldwin. Seattle has a chance to regain their pride within the NFC West with a win over the Cardinals in Week 17.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: When quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a legitimate threat to dethrone the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Receiver Antonio Brown is basically unstoppable, especially with his eye-popping stat line against the top ranked Broncos secondary last week (16 receptions, 189 yards, 2 scores). Many would have expected the MCL injury to Le'Veon Bell would have derailed the Steelers offense, but back up running back DeAngelo Williams has done a great job temporarily replacing the young star.
6. Kansas City Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs have won their last 8 games and are likely the hottest team in all of football. With wins against the Steelers and Broncos, the success of Kansas City's football team has not been hindered by the loss of running back Jamaal Charles for the season. Defensively, safety Eric Berry earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time since being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, with two of KC's linebackers making the Pro Bowl as well (Tamba Hall and Justin Houston). The Chiefs could pull off the impossible and make the playoffs after a 1-5 start.

7. Green Bay Packers: After losing four of five games during the middle of the year, the Packers have started to return to their winning ways with a three game win streak. The loss of receiver Jordy Nelson at the start of the year had a larger impact on this team than many people expected, as it shows the lack of depth at the receiver position. With teams focusing most of their efforts on Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy struggling to return to last year's form, the Packers offense is just not the same as it once was.

8. Denver Broncos: Brock Osweiler is 3-2 in games when starting this season, but by losing the past two games, the Broncos are currently on track for the third seed in the postseason. Over the past two years, the Broncos are 7-0 when running back CJ Anderson rushes for 85 yards or more, so establishing the run against teams like Cincy will be key for this offense moving forward.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: While AJ McCarron may have been able to win the first start of his career, the entire success of the Bengals hinges upon Andy Dalton's health come playoff time. Cincinnati has a tough game against the Denver Broncos next week, where a win would put Cincy on track for a first round bye in the postseason. Yet with Dalton missing from the lineup, this sort of outcome is unlikely.

10. New York Jets: Now that cornerback Darrelle Revis has returned from the concussion he sustained back in November, the Jets have a legitimate shot at earning a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Jets do not control their own destiny, as they must win their next two games and hope for at least one loss by the Chiefs, Steelers, or Broncos. This week, the Jets are home against the injury-plagued Patriots, so it would be unwise to count out New York just yet.


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