Power Rankings: No. 1 Denver Broncos Have Big Test At Baltimore
by Brandon Burnett (@B_Burnett49er)
Cold Hard Football Facts' Power Ranger
There will be no sharing for the Denver Broncos this week.
Heading into Week 14, the Texans and Broncos were locked in a tie for first in our Cold, Hard Football Facts Quality Stats Power Rankings. With a little help from Tom Brady and the Patriots, Denver put a stop to that.
New England's steady flow of touchdowns led to a 42-14 rout of the Texans on Monday Night Football, and Houston dropped to No. 4 as a result. Ironically, the Texans allowed 42 points in its only other defeat of the season (42-24 loss to Green Bay in Week 6), and it also dropped them from No. 1 to No. 4 in our Power Rankings.
The Broncos have already clinched the AFC West, but Houston draws Andrew Luck and the 9-4 Colts for two of its final three games with the AFC South suddenly slipping from its grasp.
Can the Texans bounce back from other big loss to finish the season strong, or will Indy's magical season end with a division title?
Indianapolis, meanwhile, poses the biggest oddity in the NFL and for our Quality Stats Power Rankings: they are 9-4 but a mere No. 27 in our rankings below, which are based solely on across-the-board performance in all our indicators.
The Colts are a nice story, but simply not built to make any noise in the post-season. They've also enjoyed an extremely soft schedule.
1. Denver Broncos (10-3) - The Broncos are now winners of eight straight, but a trip to Baltimore awaits them in Week 15. Denver is 2-3 against Quality Opponents and none of their 10 wins have come against a team with a record better than 7-6 in 2012. Consider this a pre-playoff test.
2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) - Are the Niners at risk of losing the NFC West to Seattle? SF travels to Foxborough in Week 15, where the Patriots have won their last 20 December games. Then, it's off to Seattle, where the 'Hawks are 6-0. The 49ers are No. 1 in Bendability, and Seattle No. 2.
3. Seattle Seahawks (8-5) - Surprised to see the Seahawks here? Shouldn't be. Seattle's 58-0 belittling of the Cardinals was the most points scored in a single game in franchise history. It carried the 'Hawks from No. 21 to No. 14 in Scoreability, and No. 9 to No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating.
4. Houston Texans (11-2) - Houston's D has now been torched by two of the best quarterbacks in football. The Texans are still alone atop the AFC, just not so comfortably. They fall to No. 8 from No. 3 in DPR after the embarrassing defeat.
5. New England Patriots (10-3) - Yeah, this team is in that mode. You know, the mode that has led the Patriots to a 38-3 record in December since 2002. The big win goes a long way in keeping the No. 2 seed in their hands and brings them one step closer to home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
6. Green Bay Packers (9-4) - Suddenly the Packers own the top spot in the NFC North. A trip to Chicago in Week 15 will decide whether or not they can keep it. GB is No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential, the Mother of All Stats. 44 of 72 NFL champs since 1940 finished in the Top 3 in PRD (61%).
7. Atlanta Falcons (11-2) - Is Atlanta losing its luster? The Falcons just don't travel well. Their disappointing 30-20 loss to the Panthers says as much. Even so, this team can lose a game and still enter the playoffs with home field advantage all the way to New Orleans in February.
8. New York Giants (8-5) - The Giants had to have their 52-27 home win over the Saints to avoid a three-way tie atop the NFC East. But can a team that is 2-4 on the road win in Atlanta Week 15, where the Falcons are 6-0? It's one of many exciting matchups in store for this weekend.
9a. Baltimore Ravens (9-4) - One win over the final three weeks will go a long way, but the Ravens draw three straight quality teams in the Broncos, Giants and Bengals, respectively. Baltimore is 4-3 against such opponents in 2012, so they know it can be done.
9b. Chicago Bears (8-5) - Things are getting ugly in Chicago, but a home win over the Packers can change that in a hurry. Then again, the Bears are 0-2 in December and finished 0-4 in the same month last season. They've also dropped to No. 9 in PRD.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) - The Steelers haven't made the playoffs in a season they failed to reach 10 wins since 1993. Pittsburgh currently sits in the No. 6 seed thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with Cincy, but its fate will likely be decided Week 16 against the Bengals at Heinz Field.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) - Can Cincy avoid falling asleep in Philly Thursday night before the big matchup in Pittsburgh the following week? We'll find out.
13. Washington Redskins (7-6) - What a four-game stretch for RGIII and the Redskins. After heading into its bye week 3-6, who thought Washington would be contending for a playoff spot in mid-December?
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) - TB once had a four-game winning streak, but has since followed it up with three straight losses. Which one, two or three of the Bucs' seven one-possession losses should we blame for a talented team with a dynamic rookie running back missing out on the playoffs?
15. Carolina Panthers (4-9) - Few expected Carolina to follow up a loss to Kansas City with a win over Atlanta. Cam Newton put together a fine performance, and the Panthers jumped from No. 12 to No. 7 in Real Quarterback Rating.
16. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) - Three consecutive wins have surprisingly brought the Rams into the playoff debate, to an extent. St. Louis can get Minnesota (7-6) out of its way at home in Week 15, as the Vikings are 1-5 on the road in 2012.
17. Dallas Cowboys (7-6) - Four wins in five weeks have brought the Cowboys back into the playoff picture as well. Dallas is just 2-6 against quality teams, however.
18. Miami Dolphins (5-8) - Miami has a defense that is ready to make this team a contender, but the offense has some serious strides to make. The Dolphins are No. 28 in Offensive Passer Rating and No. 24 in our Offensive Hog Index.
20. San Diego Chargers (5-8) - San Diego's road win in Pittsburgh was nice, but came just a little too late. The Chargers already announced they'll be firing Norv Turner and A.J. Smith at the end of the season. With home games against Carolina and Oakland to come, they can spice up the record a bit first.
21. Detroit Lions (4-9) - What a catastrophe. The Lions lost to three AFC South opponents each by three points or less, with two of them coming in overtime. Only one of Detroit's nine losses came by more than one possession.
22. New Orleans Saints (5-8) - Uh oh. The Saints won't be playing in their house for the Super Bowl, because they won't even make the postseason. They've lost three straight games by 10 points or more and have dropped to No. 30 in DHI.
23. Buffalo Bills (5-8) - Buffalo spent all that money on the defensive line in the offseason and has nothing to show for it. The Bills are No. 27 in DHI, and RB Fred Jackson will spend the rest of his season on the injured reserve for a second-straight year.
24. Minnesota Vikings (7-6) - Megatron may be on pace for 1,903 receiving yards, but Adrian Peterson is on pace for 1,969 rushing yards coming off a devastating knee injury. Yes, that is absolutely ridiculous and will long be remembered as such, especially if he eclipses the 2,000-yard mark.
25. Arizona Cardinals (4-9) - Nine straight losses now, but none of them hurt as bad as the 58-0 shelling the Cardinals took in Week 14. Arizona is now dead last in four Offensive Quality Stats.
26. New York Jets (6-7) - Oddly enough, the Jets are trying to stay in the playoff discussion for as long as they can. With Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo left to go, 9-7 is not out of the question at all.
27. Indianapolis Colts (9-4) - How are the Colts 9-4 yet No. 27 in the Power Rankings? Well, their last seven wins have come against teams with a combined 29-57 record, for one. They are 2-2 against Quality Opponents, however.
28. Tennessee Titans (4-9) - The Titans are 1-7 against Quality Opponents and No. 30 in PRD. That about sums it up.
29. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) - Well, that could've been a meaningful win over the Bucs had Philly not dropped its previous eight games. Nick Foles 381-yard, two-TD day through the air was promising, though. He ran for a score as well.
30. Oakland Raiders (3-10) - Oakland's last win was in Week 8 against Kansas City, the team it'll face this Sunday. The loser grows one step closer to the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) - Sadly, the Jaguars are not in the top half of the NFL in any Quality Stat. They are also No. 32 in the Relativity Index.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) - There's not much to say about the Chiefs. They're at No. 32 every week.
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