Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 16

1(1). New England Patriots (12-2) - The Pats won a surprisingly close game against Matt Flynn and the Packers that came down to the final seconds. If Aaron Rodgers is handling the ball in the final minute rather than Flynn, there's a good chance the Packers get into the endzone and analysts are questioning the Patriots' defense. I'm still skeptical this defense is good enough to beat three good teams in a row in the playoffs, but the Pats have taken out the Jets, Bears and Packers in their last three games.

2(2). Atlanta Falcons (12-2) - The Falcons' win over Seattle couple with the Saints' loss to Baltimore all but assures Atlanta the NFC South title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But a loss this week in Atlanta would make Week 17 important for the division and playoff positioning.

3(5). Baltimore Ravens (10-4) - Ray Rice had his first huge game of the season and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Ravens, who needed all the offense they could find to outscore the Saints. And their major theme of the season, an inability to close out games, was not an issue in this one. The Ravens have winnable division games remaining but need to finish ahead of Pittsburgh to win the NFC North.

4(6). Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) - What a comeback by Michael Vick and the Eagles against the Giants on Sunday. Yes, New York did everything they could in the final eight minutes to give that game away but Vick's dual-threat ability was on display in the fourth quarter as the Eagles chewed up yardage quickly. All Philadelphia needs to do to clinch the NFC East is beat Minnesota and Dallas, two teams with backup quarterbacks playing.

5(3). New Orleans Saints (10-4) - Despite one of the catches of the year from Lance Moore, the Saints just didn't have enough to beat the Ravens on the road. They need to beat Atlanta this week to keep their division-title hopes alive but the way Matt Ryan and the Falcons play at home, that won't be an easy task.

6(8). New York Jets (10-4) - Surprise of the week? Even I didn't expect the Jets to be able to protect the ball and put enough points on the board in Pittsburgh, but they did. It helps to see Troy Polamalu on the sideline but this win is a definite confidence booster for Mark Sanchez and the Jets, who go to Chicago next week hoping for a letdown from the Bears, who were the first team to clinch their division this season.

7(4). Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4) - There were definitely more offensive touchdowns than I expected in this game; there were even more special-teams touchdowns than I expected from either offense. The Steelers had a chance late and impressed with multiple drives of 80-plus yards but they lost the field position battle and couldn't create any turnovers. Carolina and Cleveland are winnable late-season games and Pittsburgh still controls its own destiny in the AFC North.

8(10). Chicago Bears (10-4) - Chicago beat down Minnesota on Monday night and became the first team to clinch their division this season. This week it's the battle of teams that got murdered by the Patriots recently as the Jets come to town and the Bears will need to avoid a letdown and bring the heat on defense early to rattle Mark Sanchez.

9(7). New York Giants (9-5) - I said a big game from Eli Manning would make me believe in this team more and even though they lost, this team showed they can make some noise in the playoffs. They kept Michael Vick in check for 52 minutes, but he showed that 8 minutes is plenty for him to score four times. And the fact that Matt Dodge still has his job is shocking to me.

10(9). Green Bay Packers (8-6) - Matt Flynn showed that he could play some football, but Green Bay fans have to wonder if Aaron Rodgers' injury is going to cost them a shot at the playoffs. They're currently a game back of the Giants, who they play this week with Rodgers likely returning before hosting Chicago at home in Week 17. It will be tough, but Green Bay can still get into the NFC playoffs.

11(13). San Diego Chargers (8-6) - Vincent Jackson earned a big off-season payday with his 112-yard, 3-touchdown performance on Thursday night with both Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd out with injuries. If the Chargers can beat the Bengals and Broncos and get help from either the Titans or Raiders in beating the Chiefs, this team can be dangerous in the playoffs if Floyd and Gates return healthy.

12(14). Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) - The Chiefs got Matt Cassel back this week and while the competition wasn't quite as tough as it was the week before, they took care of business against the division-leading Rams (that's a pathetic statement). They just have to win out to get in but in doing so, they will have to avenge an earlier loss to Oakland and stop Chris Johnson. Crazier things have happened.

13(15). Indianapolis Colts (8-6) - The Colts took back control of the AFC South with a win over the Jaguars and once again look like a team headed for the playoffs. Only two of their six losses this season have come against teams at .500 or worse which is right where their next two opponents, Oakland and Tennessee, fall in the standings. The Colts control their own destiny, but this defense is questionable at best and could be their late-season undoing.

14(11). Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) - The Colts actually shut down the Jaguars running game, which is the major reason Jacksonville is now looking up at Indianapolis in the division. Winning out might not even be enough for Jacksonville at this point, but the Colts are vulnerable enough to lose a game or two to finish the year.

15(12). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) - Tampa Bay finally lost to a bad team and it was a killer to their playoff chances. Rather than being tied for the sixth seed with the Giants, they are now a game back with Green Bay and need to win out and get help. With a Week 17 matchup against New Orleans, this team seems likely to watch the NFL's second season from home.

16(17). Oakland Raiders (7-7) - The Raiders have now alternated wins in their past four games, so expect a loss against Indianapolis this week after Oakland beat down the broken Broncos. If only it were that simple...

17(16). Miami Dolphins (7-7) - With their playoff hopes now dashed after a loss to the Bills, the real question for the Dolphins becomes what to do with their mid-first round pick. To draft Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett or Cam Newton or to roll with Chad Henne, that is the question on Miami fan's minds right now.

18(NR). Tennessee Titans (6-8) - Seems like these last three spots are filled with garbage every week and Week 16 is no different. The Titans smashed the Texans to replace them in the rankings, but this is another team with lots of off-season questions looming. What to do with Vince Young will be at the top of the list.

19(18). St Louis Rams (6-8) - If it wasn't for a St. Louis-Seattle Week 17 matchup where somebody has to win (right?), this division could actually be won with a 6-10 record. As it is 8-8 will take it but most likely, there will be a 7-9 team representing the NFL in the playoffs. I'm rooting for Sam Bradford and the Rams and they control their own destiny, with games against the 49ers and the Seahawks left.

20(19). Seattle Seahawks (6-8) - Seattle has the toughest Week 16 matchup of the NFC West contender, facing a solid Bucs team. If the Seahawks lose and the 49ers beat the Rams there will be a three-way tie at 6-9 for first place and the 49ers will control their own destiny. Maybe an 0-5 start is no longer a death sentence after all?

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