NFL Power Rankings: Week 16
By David Barbour
Posted December 27th, 2006

Baltimore Ravens (12-3)
Last Week:  2nd

With other supposedly elite teams struggling of late, the Ravens continue to be the rock NFL fans can lean on.  Once again, they have proved just how easy it is to win with a stifling defense (3.9 yards per offensive play allowed) and a quarterback who completes a high percentage of passes while never throwing so many interceptions it hurts the team’s chances of winning.  Even more amazing, the Ravens have amassed this record without the faintest semblance of a running game.

San Diego Chargers (13-2)
Last Week:  1st

While the Chargers continue to win and should be commended for doing so, they are beginning to look dangerously similar to the Bears team that has been winning despite the play from the quarterback position because of defensive play and a good running game.  For Philip Rivers’ sake, game-winning touchdown pass aside, Chargers fans should hope he regains his rhythm in the next two weeks.

New England Patriots (11-4)
Last Week:  3rd

If the Patriots’ AFC East division title does cause any excitement, it should be subdued at best because they were outplayed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, averaging only 5.1 yards per offensive play to Jacksonville’s 7.4 yards per offensive play and only winning only because of a late fumble by the Jaguars.  Of course, a win is a win and New England probably won’t be sending this one back to Florida.

Chicago Bears (13-2)
Last Week:  4th

Well, it looks like we have finally discovered Lovie Smith’s coaching modus operandi.  Watch the starting quarterback struggle through most of the season and then replace him with a better quarterback in the late stages of the season, making sure the back-up does not get too many game reps so he’s not fully acclimated to NFL play again.  Then watch the Chicago Bears lose in the second-round of the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints (10-5)
Last Week:  7th

It was not the explosive performance the thirty points scored would seem to suggest, but while the Saints were wrapping up second place in the NFC, it became even more apparent that with every week, Reggie Bush continues to get better and better, which is bad news for the team(s) who will face the Saints in the playoffs.  Should Bush continue to rack up 100+ yard rushing games, he will be in danger of become a featured running back.

Indianapolis Colts (11-4)
Last Week:  5th

The defense was probably responsible for the Colts losing another game, but the offense deserves recognition for just how efficient they were on offense.  Running only forty-five plays, the Colts offense gained 319 yards and scored twenty-four points while averaging 7.1 yards per offensive play.  Now, if only they had enough cap space to spend money to improve the defense.  Oh well.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6)
Last Week:  9th

So ends the long, unexpected rise of the Philadelphia Eagles to the top of the NFC East division with a sixteen-point margin of victory over the Dallas Cowboys.  Also, I would be remiss for not saying that Brian Dawkins deserves defensive player of the year more than anyone else in the league.

Dallas Cowboys (9-6)
Last Week:  6th

Let Tony Romo’s two interceptions and 3.7 net yards per pass play serve as a cautionary tale to any quarterbacks who think making your relationship with a former American Idol winner public.  It will do you more harm than it will good.

New York Jets (9-6)
Last Week:  12th

Eventually there will come a day when people stop focusing on Chad Pennington’s lack of arm strength and begin to give him credit for being an accurate quarterback who rises to the challenge in most games to lead his team to victory.  I know I cannot wait until that day finally arrives.

Denver Broncos (9-6)
Last Week:  16th

Like many NFL teams, the Broncos won this past Sunday, not necessarily because they had the better quarterback or running back or wide receivers on the field, but because they were able to take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes, scoring fourteen points on Bengals turnovers, while limited the damage their own turnovers did to them.  Also, a word of caution:  do not jump on the Jay Cutler bandwagon just yet.

Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Last Week:  13th

This time, the Titans won in a more conventional manner, out-running and out-passing the Bills on the way to their sixth straight victory and a legitimate outside shot at making the playoffs when that seemed far out of their reach during the Kerry Collins tenure.  It looks like this Vince Young guy might be a player after all.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-7)
Last Week:  8th

Maybe the missed PAT that kept the Bengals from being in the driver’s seat on the way to a playoff spot was some sort of payback for all the bad karma the Bengals built up with their numerous arrests.  Or maybe it’s just one of those things that happens when it is snowing and bitterly cold.  You pick.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)
Last Week:  16th

Not surprisingly, the Chiefs did not even have to put together a more impressive performance than the Oakland Raiders to win the game.  All they had to do was wait for the Raiders to turn the ball over so they could score points off of the turnovers.  This, they did on the way to a victory over a division foe that is anything but formidable these days.

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7)
Last Week:  10th

Even though the Jaguars eventually lost to the Patriots by three points, the Jaguars should be applauded for playing up to their superior competition once again.  Now if only they had not played down to the inferior teams on their schedule, then they would have a reserved spot in the playoffs right now. 

Seattle Seahawks (8-7)
Last Week: 17th

According to the Seattle Seahawks, the best way to clinch a division title is to lose by three at home and wait for the second-place team in the division to lose so you can back your way into the title, thereby conserving enough energy for the impending first-round playoff loss.  If you can also average 4.1 yards per offensive play, that would be great.

St. Louis Rams (7-8)
Last Week:  20th

Offensive outbursts like the one shown by the Rams where they averaged 7.4 yards per offensive play against Washington makes you wonder why this team is currently sitting below .500.  Then you remember that they are prone to inconsistency and their defense really can’t stop anyone and you nod to yourself and go about your daily life. 

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)
Last Week:  11th

Who wants to repeat as Super Bowl champions anyway?  It just means you have to play even more football games and then worry about making sure all your family and hangers-on get Super Bowl tickets so that they will continue to talk to you.  As their 3.9 yards per offensive play against the Ravens can attest, the Steelers obviously did not want to repeat.

Buffalo Bills (7-8)
Last Week:  18th

Loss aside, the Bills have to be encouraged by the play of J.P. Losman who looks like he will not be the second-worst quarterback in the NFL any longer.  If he and his wide receivers are able to build on their chemistry going into next year, the AFC East will end up being perhaps the toughest division in all of football and the Patriots will have at least one legitimate threat to the AFC East division lead.

New York Giants (7-8)
Last Week:  14th

Seventy-one yards on sixteen carries is probably not the way Tiki Barber saw his last game in Giants Stadium going, but that is what happens when you play in the same backfield with a quarterback named Eli Manning who only completes 36% of his pass attempts and averages 2.2 net yards per pass play.  At least in a network studio, Barber can keep his embarrassment to a minimum.
Carolina Panthers (7-8)
Last Week:  27th

On the one hand, Chris Weinke should be absolutely horrified that his coaching staff only trusted him enough to let him handle ten pass plays and he only managed 1.1 net yards per pass play.  On the other hand, Weinke finally got that ever elusive second win as an NFL starter so the day wasn’t all bad.

Atlanta Falcons (7-8)
Last Week:  19th

There is no longer a legitimate reason to continue to start Michael Vick as quarterback.  Before you could at least say that the Falcons won with Vick, but that is no longer the case.  He is no longer exciting to watch because he is so ineffective and the Falcons will never go deep into the playoffs with him at the helm.

Washington Redskins (5-10)
Last Week:  22nd

While this season has been a lost one for the Redskins, at least Jason Campbell is getting an invaluable lesson in what it takes to be an NFL quarterback and the offensive line has proved that any running back that runs behind them has a chance to be a star in the league.  The Redskins also learned that making Adam Archuleta the highest paid safety doesn’t guarantee he will be good.

Green Bay Packers (7-8)
Last Week:  23rd

Despite only scoring nine points, the Packers did out-perform the Vikings in every important football category.  Plus, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, Favre even threw one more touchdown than the rookie Tarvaris Jackson.  It’s just too bad it was to a Vikings defender.

Arizona Cardinals (5-10)
Last Week:  26th

The Cardinals got away with it this past Sunday, but next time they might want to score more than two touchdowns on their six red zone possessions.  As they themselves found out, settling for field goal after field goal after field goal after field goal makes the score a lot closer than it should be. 

San Francisco 49ers (6-9)
Last Week:  21st

Not a lot went well for the 49ers as they fell into third-place in the NFC West.  They could not run the ball effectively, convert a reasonable amount of their third-down opportunities, or score enough points to beat the Arizona Cardinals.  With this loss, they also mathematically eliminated themselves from the playoffs, which should also apply to the rest of the NFC West teams, but sadly does not.

Miami Dolphins (6-9)
Last Week:  24th

No matter how great of a coach Nick Saban supposedly is, although I have doubts about his NFL coaching acumen, the Dolphins continue to have the same problem they have had since Dan Marino retired, which is to say they still cannot get consistently good play from the quarterback position.  Conversely, consistently bad quarterback play is an entity of which they have plenty.

Houston Texans (5-10)
Last Week:  30th

Only the Texans’ ball-control game plan which they were able to implement perfectly kept them from losing the game against the Colts, but both Ron Dayne and David Carr should be proud of themselves that they were finally able to both perform well against an elite NFL team.  If anyone needs confidence, it is those two much maligned players.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)
Last Week:  29th

It’s amazing how much better the Buccaneers look with a quarterback not named Bruce Gradkowski not leading the team, who is able to save the defense from constantly being on the field.  Rattay’s play of late brings up the interesting question of whether or not the Buccaneers will have a quarterback controversy heading into next season.

Minnesota Vikings (6-9)
Last Week:  25th

It was quite the inauspicious start for one Tarvaris Jackson, who got his first NFL action against the Green Bay Packers.  Fortunately for Jackson and the Vikings, it is unlikely that he will get any worse than he was on Thursday even if he tried.  Averaging 1.2 net yards per pass attempt leaves little room for a decline.

Detroit Lions (2-13)
Last Week:  31st

Thank you letters should be sent to the Detroit Lions for proving, with their 21 points, that the Bears defense can be scored on and that the supposed best team in the NFL is far from invincible.  In the thank you letters, the teams that have beaten the Detroit Lions should also express gratitude to the Lions for being so bad.

Cleveland Browns (4-11)
Last Week:  28th

You know you have had a bad day as a quarterback when you are being replaced by Ken Dorsey and Derek Anderson had a game that probably brought up repressed memories from anyone who watched him turn in similar performances (10 of 27, 4 interceptions) at Oregon State.  Browns fans probably never thought they would miss Charlie Frye this much.

Oakland Raiders (2-13)
Last Week:  32nd

With their latest loss, I think Oakland’s offense has broken the NFL record for most games in which the offense wastes a good defensive performance.  Congratulations to Oakland for achieving this distinction.

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