The final Power Rankings tally of the season ... the regular season, anyway.
Appropriate for the zany 2015 campaign is the tumultuous rejiggering of the top 10 -- and beyond! You'll see that, beyond No. 1, nearly every ballclub in the NFL moved up or down this week. That's through Sunday's action, coaching changes, and, of course, in anticipation of ...
... the playoffs. Two things to consider:
1) The 12 teams in the playoff field represent the premier dozen below.
2) No "Power Standings" here. Seeding < Strength. (Who wants to play Seattle right now?)
I present to you the final regular-season ranking for your favorite team (and everybody else's). There is not one mention of Odell Beckham Jr. There is mention of the great Charles Woodson. Feel free to share your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place. Lastly ...
Let the dissension commence!
NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Dec. 29 Power Rankings.
On a day when the Patriots and Cardinals looked like they could be defeated by Tennessee Tech and Fort Valley State, Cam Newton had the entire roster dabbing ... ahem ... during the fourth quarter. Well, maybe he thought he wouldn't be able to get all the guys together after the game (you know, guys drive their own cars to the stadium, hop on Tinder, go to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" a fifth time ...). The Panthers delivered an exclamation point as to who the best team in football is in the blowout win over the Bucs. That said, was anyone else shocked that the league's MVP was out there throwing balls to Devin Funchess late in the second half of a four-score game? Carolina fans? ( @HarrisonNFL)
Message delivered. Seattle might be the team to beat, period. These 'Hawks aren't the two-time defending NFC champs by mistake. Russell Wilson looks great. The secondary looks better. The Seahawks look so fine that Doug Baldwin doesn't even seem mad anymore. And what's more important than all that jazz? Some veteran running back who has been rehabbing by himself for more than a month appears ready to return to the fold this weekend. I typed that so I wouldn't get fined. Good luck, Minnesota.
Permission to be concerned, Cardinals fans? When your head coach wants to stay aggressive and send a message, then the ballclub gets whipped 36-6 by Seattle, it's OK to raise an eyebrow. Or freak out. Arizona fans hit me on Twitter pretty hard -- demanding the No. 1 spot -- after the Panthers fell on the road to a division foe by one score. How about losing on your own field to a division rival by 30?
They might not be the 1969 Chiefs, but these Chiefs are heading into the postseason with more strength than a Kansas City team in a long, long time. Andy Reid's 2013 group limped to the finish line. The 2010 team was led by Matt Cassel. In 2006, Damon Huard was the starting QB. The Dick Vermeil-led 2003 club couldn't stop anybody. Today's Chiefs are riding the NFL's longest current winning streak at 10 games, and they could get the premier edge rusher in the game back on Saturday. # ChiefsKingdom
From almost entirely out of the playoffs to the top seed in the AFC, courtesy of a Brock Osweiler-led comeback, followed by a Brock Osweiler benching, followed by a Peyton Manning-led comeback. So if the Broncos are the No. 1 seed, why do some folks consider them weaker than the Patriots? Because they are better when playing with a quarterback who can make the throws that allow the receivers to run normal route trees. With Manning this season, Denver receivers have been running route shrubs. Yes, they beat the Patriots this season -- with Osweiler starting. New England also will have a healthy Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola available for the first time since before that late-November contest.
What a dud performance from the AFC's alleged best team. Tom Brady: 12 of 21 for 134 yards and no touchdowns. Ryan Tannehill: 25 of 38 for 350 yards and two touchdowns. What the #$*%?! The Pats gained 196 net yards of offense, their lowest total since Week 7 of 2010 against the Chargers (they won that game). The only thing worse than that? Seeing Brady hobbling.
Many wanted the Steelers out of the top 10 following the Week 16 hiccup in Baltimore. And this team didn't look particularly impressive against Austin Davis and the Browns on Sunday. But now pundits are saying this is the team no one wants to play in the AFC tournament. The offense truly is scary. What is scarier, however, is that the NFL is in an age when no one besides a quarterback can get MVP love. Please give one good reason Antonio Brown isn't an MVP candidate, because 136 catches for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns sounds pretty viable to me.
Confidence-building win for the AJ McCarron-led Bengals, which likely will be the version we see hosting the Steelers in this week's wild-card game. Of course, McCarron's first non-mop-up action this season came against that very opponent, with mixed results. And it was that very matchup in the 2005 wild-card round that saw the career arc of then- Bengals QB Carson Palmer change forever, courtesy of a torn ACL, while Pittsburgh went on to win its first Super Bowl since the 1970s. We should know more regarding Andy Dalton's availability later this week, but it's looking more and more like it'll be AJ to A.J. again. As my colleague @_EricDavis_ said on NFL Network, "This is the chance for the Cincinnati Bengals to not be little brother." Yep.
Minnesota proved much Sunday night. More than anything else, the Vikings showed that running the football and playing stiff defense is still a viable strategy in a pass-happy league. Of course, it helps to have Adrian Peterson. It helps to have a high-effort pass rusher like Everson Griffen. And it helps to have hired the right guy to captain the ship in January 2014. Heckuva job, Mike Zimmer. Helluva job. #SKOL
Kirk Cousins doesn't do the whole tapping the brakes thing. Washington has gone from being a team that might have a shot because the NFC East is so crappy to a streaking 9-7 squad that is freaking rolling on offense. Next up: the Packers. Ryan Kerrigan should be more excited than an 8-year-old before Christmas at the thought of facing that Green Bay offensive line.
How much of the Packers' dysfunction on offense is the result of shoddy line play and how much is due to the receivers not getting open? Green Bay can't throw deep because the makeshift line can't protect Aaron Rodgers long enough. When the QB does get protection, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams can't get enough separation to let Rodgers get rid of the ball. But make no mistake, Rodgers isn't playing well, either. He's misfiring on throws we're not used to seeing him miss, like a deep ball to James Jones late in Sunday's loss that Xavier Rhodes was able to close on, or the vertical shot to Jones with 24 seconds left.
Who would've thought the Texans would be 9-7 a second straight season after the way this campaign started? Bill O'Brien might not receive many Coach of the Year votes, but he sure could stake a claim. Interesting that the tumultuous beginning of Houston's 2015 commenced with an ugly Week 1 loss versus Kansas City at home. Now the Chiefs into town with 10 straight wins under their belt, ready to make Brian Hoyer beat them. Pass protection will be at a premium for Houston.
So .500 ball was disappointing for a team that hoped to improve on its 9-7 mark from 2014. But beating the Jets twice, with the latter win bouncing Gang Green from the playoffs? Not bad. Tyrod Taylor came up big, as did the much-maligned defense. And let's get real here: Rex Ryan has taken much of the heat for that side of the ball's nosedive this season. But we should also not forget that it was his decision to go with Taylor. In that realm, the 2015 Bills had more upside than the previous year's team -- despite the worse record -- because of the Taylor gamble. Defense can win championships, but not with a lousy QB.
Sooooooooooo close ... and sooooo Jets. Their fans must be sick. Kenbrell Thompkins looked ill after his drop on a bang-bang play. I watched the "30 for 30" on the 1990s Bills on Saturday, and it was driven home by those Buffalo players that the team should have never been in position for kicker Scott Norwood to decide Super Bowl XXV. Many plays determine the outcome of a football game, and the same is true for Thompkins. Missed opportunities abounded for the now-non-playoff-bound Jets. But don't let that obscure a fine 10-win season, or the fact that Todd Bowles deserves Coach of the Year mention.
You have to hand it to Martha Firestone Ford. The 90-year-old frontwoman of the Detroit Lions was not happy with the direction of the organization, stood in front of a throng of reporters, relieved the team president and GM of their duties and changed the story arc of the 2015 Lions' season. What had been a crummy 1-7 team went 6-2 down the stretch, with one of those losses coming courtesy of an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary. Throw in the fluke loss to the Seahawks and you have a team that could have been 9-7 despite losing its two best players from 2014: Ndamukong Suh to free agency and DeAndre Levy to injury. Keeping Jim Caldwell sounds correct.
While 7-9 is not where this Raiders team wants to be, much promise lies in the future, starting at quarterback. Derek Carr and 'mates made several mistakes at Arrowhead, but who hasn't struggled against the Chiefs lately? Khalil Mack continued a season that went from stout to All-Pro-level over the last month, posting 10 tackles Sunday (including two for loss). It would have been nice to send Charles Woodson out a winner. Yet, watching Chiefs Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Marcus Peters bow to Woodson at midfield immediately after the game was beyond cool.
Questions persist regarding the future of Sean Payton and Drew Brees in New Orleans. Most notably the former, who is being rumored as a potential fit in places like New York and San Francisco. (Of course, when it comes to the Niners job, what do prospective coaches think about the Harbaugh/Tomsula tribal councils with team management? But I digress.) The upside with the Saints is that they were able to develop some young players on defense this season. Not just first-round pick Stephone Anthony, but a few supporting pieces to couple with established guys like Cameron Jordan. Junior Galette sure is supportive.
Prior to news of
Chuck Pagano's extension breaking late Monday, I had written the following for this space:
Maybe it's just me (and 53 Colts players, too) ... But if you lose your franchise quarterback and still finish one game out of the playoffs, you probably shouldn't lose your gig. Look at the Cowboys' sterling record sans Tony Romo.
Glad Jim Irsay saw it that way, too. Pagano did nothing to get fired. This was a depleted bunch, especially at the game's most important positon. It got so bad by Week 17 that Rick Mirer and Jeff George were waiting by their pagers. (That's what we had in the '90s: pagers.) Many organizations, like the Giants and Steelers, have been rewarded for being patient with the head coach. Even if Pagano still fails to eventually deliver a title, based on where things stand today, he deserves to be a head man in the NFL.
How the Falcons can beat the 14-0 Panthers one week and lose to the 6-9 Saints the next is anyone's guess. That's the NFL these days. How did Atlanta gain 419 yards of offense, go 8 for 12 on third down ... and score 17 points (against the worst defense in the league)? Two turnovers, a blocked field goal and a rare game where a team has only eight possessions is your answer. Still, this was a game Atlanta needed to win -- should've won -- to post a winning season. Who knows what to expect from Dan Quinn's group next season?
Get excited: DeMarco Murray gave you that home run you've been waiting for all season! Don't worry; he still chipped in a fumble later. Pat Shurmur led Philly to a win in his lame-duck coaching gig. Speaking of lame ducks ... Who will replace Chip Kelly? Here is a vote for former Eagles/current Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Philadelphia could use his defensive discipline, with Murray or Ryan Mathews used in the same manner Jonathan Stewart is being utilized in Carolina. McDermott knows most everyone in the building -- including, most crucially, Howie Roseman. If not McDermott, how about the other coordinator in Carolina? Mike Shula has earned a shot and could improve Philly's offense. Obviously, we'll have to see if Sam Bradford will be back in Eagles green. He's been looking more like the green knight at Medieval Times than the face of an offense lately. Forget the air attack; how about a Conair trimmer?
Give the Rams credit: They go 7-9, like, every season. In an era of pro football in which free agency and the salary cap deplete all continuity, this organization is the master of consistency. Feel the excitement of not-too-strong, not-too-cruddy football, football fans! Now let the L.A. move speculation begin. (Or continue.) On a slightly brighter front than SoCal chatter, I would be surprised if Todd Gurley doesn't win Offensive Rookie of the Year after gaining 1,106 rush yards despite logging just 12 starts. He'll go top five in fantasy drafts next year, guaranteed.
Of all the coaching changes, Tom Coughlin's is the one you hate to see the most. Yes, unfortunately, it's an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new world in 2016, but you would like to have seen a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach go out a hair differently. Sure, the Giants haven't made the playoffs since Coughlin's second title year of 2011. They haven't been awful, either. Perhaps a shift in philosophy was necessary, but not if you heard his players Monday. The Eli Manning almost-crying face was welcome, and appropriate.
Super fun win on Sunday! But still, in the bigger picture ... It's been 16 years since Dan Marino limped off into the sunset and Jimmy Johnson went fishing. The last playoff win with those two in tow came in Seattle (when the Seahawks were in the AFC). Marino timed all his throws with no juice (think: Peyton Manning last Sunday) in the late stages, before the infamous thrashing in Jacksonville. Since then: Sixteen seasons, one playoff win. And now Mike Tannenbaum is looked at as Football Yoda in South Florida. Hey, maybe Mark Sanchez can come save the day. Give me Jay Fiedler.
John Fox, in a sweet, charcoal check-print blazer straight outta 1972, said "I'm not proud of our record, but that will come." Not with Matt Forte, a free agent-to-be. With Jeremy Langford waiting in the wings, Forte's last game in Chicago was most assuredly this past Sunday. A little perspective on No. 22: Since 2008, Forte has compiled 12,718 yards from scrimmage, over 700 yards more than the next-closest player ( Adrian Peterson). Where he ends up will be one of the more interesting offseason subplots. Still, he is an all-time Chicago Bear.
Lovie Smith said on Monday that Jameis Winston needs to speak his mind, given that he is the quarterback and de facto team leader. That was in response to the rookie signal caller pulling no punches in the immediate aftermath of a 38-10 loss to the Panthers, as Winston questioned the want-to of players in the Bucs' locker room. Makes sense. Tampa Bay went from 6-6 and surging to ... losing out. Three of those last four contests -- home vs. the Saints, at the Rams and home against the Bears -- were clearly winnable, given those teams' respective records. What's flying under the radar is whether or not the club will get Doug Martin re-signed. The free agent only ran for 1,402 yards.
Give the Ravens love, as they gave the Bengals a ballgame for most of the afternoon Sunday. At the end of the day, there is much to look forward to for the organization: Ozzie Newsome will be back, John Harbaugh will be back, Joe Flacco will be healthy. Ditto Justin Forsett. And the icing on the cake? Future Hall of Famer Steve Smith Sr. will be foolin' DBs for a 16th season in 2016 after all.
Gus Bradley = back. Thus, the main components of the 5-11 Jaguars will be the primary parts in 2016. Tantamount to any success this franchise could enjoy next season will be Bradley fixing the side of the ball that got him the Jacksonville job in the first place: defense. The Jags finished 31st in points allowed, 31st in third-down conversions allowed, 29th in pass defense, 29th in first downs allowed and 28th in the time-of-possession battle.
The 49ers won the one matchup Sunday that nobody gave two youknowwhats about. Questions abound following the release of Jim Tomsula, starting with -- but not limited to -- the identity of his replacement. How he was supposed to succeed with three of his top players retiring, four others departing via free agency and another released is beyond me. That agent of his did a helluva job securing him that guaranteed cash, though. If I were him, I'd lay out this year, and maybe take the family truckster to Walley World. Rough business.
Applaud, applaud, applaud the decision by Chargers brass to retain Mike McCoy. Many of my colleagues had said he was as good as gone in recent weeks. Well, perhaps in this one case, patience prevailed. San Diego had an awful season. But there the Chargers were on Sunday, giving the AFC's No. 1 seed all it could handle. McCoy helped Jake Delhomme get to the Super Bowl. He won a division (and a playoff game) with Tim Tebow. A mulligan in 2015 seems tolerable.
Jason Garrett will be back ( ... ahem ... unless Jerry Jones swipes right on Sean Payton). Either way, it sounds like Dallas might draft a quarterback. Here's to the 'Boys not doing so with their top choice, which will be in the Juan Gone spot of the 2016 draft (No. 4 overall). In case you're wondering, that is the highest the Cowboys have selected since 1991, when Jimmy Johnson took Russell Maryland with the first overall pick. This team could use a Maryland in the line rotation. But it could use an LB, S or WR2 more. (Yes, we saw Terrance Williams pile up over 170 yards Sunday. And ... The rest of the season?)
Blow it up, 7.0. Mike Pettine was reportedly on his way out before the game. GM Ray Farmer got the text, er, talk before the game. As for Austin Davis and the Cleveland Browns? Another lost season at 3-13. And no top overall pick. Speaking of first-rounders, that's really the story in Cleveland of late: Look at the 1s this organization has missed on. Drumroll, please ... Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Barkevious Mingo, Justin Gilbert, Turd Norton ... Who am I missing?
It is very difficult to slot all 32 teams in the Power Rankings. Except this for one. Didn't even have to think about it. Potential splash move of this offseason? Retaining Mike Mularkey. Or not. Let's hope he owns a solid plan in a manila folder or Trapper Keeper somewhere, or else Tennessee fans could be watching Trapper John, M.D. on YouTube by October. If Mularkey does indeed get the nod, and the Chip Kelly- Marcus Mariota pairing is fantasy, the next-best step to helping the young QB must be finding a running back. It's your baby, David Cobb.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.