Seattle’s beatdown of the Saints has shaken up the NFC battle for a bye week: for the first time all season, the Saints have dropped out of the NFC’s Top 2 in our Power Rankings. This Sunday Night, Cam Newton & the Black Panthers are looking to make a statement in front of Who Dat Nation #FistsRaised
Think of PFPod’s Rankings as the half-breed love-child of traditional “Power Rankings” and the NFL playoff format: from Best to Worst, we rank the 8 Division Leaders and 2 Wild Card Contenders from each conference. Our Top 12 rankings give you all the fun of a college poll AND a meaningful outlook on the NFL playoff picture!
Top 4: Bye-week bound Divisional Leaders
1. Seattle Seahawks. (11-1). The Seahawks have already earned a playoff berth. A win over San Fran on Sunday would clinch a postseason bye week for Seattle #NextUp #NFCTopSeed
2. Denver Broncos. (10-2). A tough road win at KC has put Denver back in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage. Notwithstanding the Pats’ overtime win against the Broncos, Brady’s Bunch simply can’t be trusted to win at Peyton’s Place during the playoffs.
3. Carolina Panthers. (9-3). After watching Seattle’s defense demolish Drew Brees’ passing attack, Ron Rivera’s squad has also learned the recipe for making mincemeat out of Sean Payton’s offense. We are more curious to see if Cam Newton can repeat Russell Wilson’s success against the Saints’ D.
4. New England Patriots. (9-3). While Pats’ fans are hoping the Broncos will stumble against one of Denver’s four remaining opponents (all of whom are under .500), Bill Belichick is trying to devise a solid game plan to beat the resurgent Ravens in Week 16. Since John Harbaugh took over in Baltimore, Belichick is 3-3 against the Ravens (including postseason), and he has never beaten Harbaugh’s team by more than 6 points.
Best of the Rest: NFL Power Rankings 5-12
5. New Orleans Saints. (9-3). In a copycat league, can the Saints rebound from a horrific 27-point loss at Seattle? We’ll find out when Jeff Fisher and Greg Schiano line their defensive-oriented squads up against New Orleans’ declining corps of wide receivers.
6. Cincinnati Bengals. (8-4). If the Bengals want to prove they have the grit to make it past the Wild Card Round for the first time in Marvin Lewis’ tenure, Cincy has to shut the door on the Steelers and Ravens in their two remaining divisional games. If either of those teams beats Cincy, the 2013 Divisional Title will crack back open for the AFC North’s perennial powerhouses in Bawlmer and the ‘Burgh.
7. Detroit Lions. (7-5). The Lions leaped over the Colts in this week’s Power Rankings based on our projections for the post-season. Indy has looked awful on the road without Reggie Wayne in the lineup, whereas Detroit has the offensive firepower and defensive line to upset New Orleans, Carolina, or even Seattle this postseason.
8. Indianapolis Colts. (8-4). That said, the Colts’ magic number is 1: one victory in December will clinch Jim Irsay his first AFC South title since 2010. Let’s see if Indy can impress the rest of us by winning at least one of their two remaining games against playoff-bound opponents (KC & the Bengals).
9. Kansas City Chiefs. (9-3). We’ve been hard on the Chiefs in these Power Rankings lately, but truth be told, we don’t care if they play Indy or Cincy on Wild Card Weekend. Head-to-head, we think the Chiefs can win on the road against both these AFC pretenders. Just don’t assume KC will finish the season 12-3.
10. San Francisco 49ers. (8-4). With Michael Crabtree back on the field, the 49ers’ passing game becomes much harder for opposing defenses to stymie. Colin Kaepernick looks extremely happy to have Boldin, Crabtree and Davis back on the field together. However, before San Fran can start its 2013 playoff run, look for the Niners to suffer their final loss of the season this Sunday: Seattle has outscored Frisco 71-16 in their last two matchups.
11. Philadelphia Eagles. (7-5). Don’t look now, but the Eagles currently have the third-longest winning streak in the NFC, behind only Carolina and Seattle. Luckily for Philly fans, the Eagles have a date with destiny and Tony Choke-mo in Week 17.
12. Baltimore Ravens. (6-6). The defending Super Bowl Champs return to the Power Rankings for the first time since Week 6. Alas, with their final three games against Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati, Ravens’ fans shouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers or even the Jets (yes you read that right) finish with the same record or better. Come Week 17, The crazy math for three-way tiebreakers may come into play for the 6-seed in the AFC. You might as well bookmark the NFL’s link now: http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakingprocedures