Garceau: Week 17 NFL Power Ratings
As we get ready for the final week of the NFL regular season the playoff picture is becoming more defined. The Panthers are no longer undefeated but their remarkable turnaround from 8-7-1 in 2015 to 14-1 this year makes them a strong contender to reach Super Bowl 50.
The NFL is about injuries, no team escapes without some but some teams get crippled by mass or losing several core players. As we get ready to drop the ball (fumble!) on 2015 here's a look at my 4 best teams in the AFC and NFC.
- New England: Brady and Belichick and likely home-field throughout, that's a nice edge for the Pats. How much can they get out of banged up Edelman and Amendola in the post season will be important. Gronk will be ready and Brady is on a mission to get back to the Super Bowl.
- Denver could clinch home field with a win Sunday and a New England loss. The Broncos have had QB issues all season; first Manning was terrible now Brock Osweiler decent but inconsistent. Their defense is good enough to get them to Palo Alto but how much can they get from the offense?
- Cincinnati: Could this be the year they finally breakthrough in the postseason? A.J. McCarron may have to answer that question. The Bengals are hoping Andy Dalton is recovered from his thumb injury, without him it may be another chapter of failed January's in The Jungle.
- Kansas City: Andy Reid's Chiefs lost 5 straight and since have run off 9 wins in a row, amazing! The Chiefs are solid in all phases but spectacular in none. In the passing game Jeremy Macklin and Travis Kelce give Alex Smith nice targets. The defense lead by Justin Houston and Tomba Hali can harass quarterbacks. I wouldn't be surprised to see them win a playoff game; I would be surprised to see them win more than 1.
- Arizona: The top 2 teams in the NFC might be better than anything the AFC has to offer. Carson Palmer is a legit MVP candidate with his 3 amigo's Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd combining for over 3,000 yards receiving. They've won 9 straight and have won their last 2 games (Eagles and Packers) by a combined score of 78-25. Look out!
- Carolina: They have the best record in the NFL but only number 2 in the NFC? I might like the Cardinals just a pinch better but Carolina has the ingredients to win it all. Start with Cam Newton who's having an MVP season and winning games in the fourth quarter. The Panthers rank fourth in total defense and have some of the NFL's best in in linebackers Like Kuechly, Thomas Davis and super corner Josh Norman. They may be a little short of playmakers on offense but quarterbacks and defenses have won plenty of Super Bowls and Carolina has that covered.
- Seattle could be the 6-seed in the NFC but raise your hand if you want to play this team. I didn't think so. They'd won 5 straight before a hiccup at home against the Rams last week. A 9-6 record with 3 home losses doesn't look anything like the Seahawks teams that went to the last two Super Bowls but they'll be a tough out. Like Carolina they have a difference making quarterback in Russell Wilson and a defense that can play lights out. The return of Marshawn Lynch would help.
- Green Bay hosts Minnesota Sunday the North title and a first round home game goes to the winner. While I can make a case for Arizona, Carolina and Seattle winning the NFC it's hard to see these two or Washington getting there. Aaron Rodgers is capable of carrying his team but the Green Bay offense has been ugly. Adrian Peterson gives the Vikings hope but Teddy Bridgewater is still learning and the Vikings rank 31st in passing.
The Steelers get honorable mention here, when right they're capable of beating anybody in the league. They created their own mess last week losing in Baltimore and because of that Big Ben and all that talent on offense may be watching the playoffs on TV.
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