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My 2021 NFL Power Index Week 15

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Rich has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Penn State. WE ARE!!!


NFL Power Index 2021 Week 15

What a bizarre week. We had an NFL game on Thursday, Saturday, a regular-ish slate Sunday followed by a double-header Monday night and another double-header Tuesday night. As I’m writing this on a Wednesday, there’s another game tomorrow and that will be followed up with yet another double-header on Saturday before the normal Sunday and Monday routine. Are you still with me? It seems like there’s an NFL game every day lately which might be the Christmas wish of a few of us. So, with the holidays rapidly approaching, let’s stick with that theme and see what should be atop each NFL team’s Christmas wish list this year.

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3) ~ Home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Green Bay appears to be the best team in the NFC and, perhaps, the entire NFL. They are so far the only team to clinch a playoff spot having locked up the NFC North. The currently have a one-game lead over Dallas for the top spot in the NFC and close out the season with games against Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit. I can’t see them going any worse than 2-1 in that stretch which should be enough to ensure the road to the Super Bowl goes through Green Bay once again. (Last Week’s Ranking 1)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) ~ Their star players to be OK and return from the Covid list. Kansas City vaulted to the top of the AFC after this week’s slate of games, but did see stars such as tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill be placed on the Covid list. Their offense would look a LOT different without those two in the lineup. K.C.’s seven game win streak is the longest current streak in the league. (LWR 5)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4) ~ Their star players to get healthy and fast. It might be easier to say who didn’t leave Sunday night’s game with an injury, but that might make you think a little bit and we don’t want that. Receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans went down. So did running back Leonard Fournette. Star linebacker Lavonte David? Yep, him too. Godwin is done for the year and David is out at least the rest of the regular season. Fournette is expected to be placed on injured reserve. Tampa was just hit with the injury bug at the worst time of the year. (LWR 2)

4. New England Patriots (9-5) ~ A mulligan. Their seven game win streak came to a screeching halt in Indianapolis. They were down 20-0 in the 3rd quarter before they made a game of it by scoring 17 unanswered points. They ultimately came up short, but every team deserves one mulligan throughout the season. Let’s give them theirs as they prepare for a massive game against the Bills this Sunday. (LWR 4)

5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) ~ A reliable kicker. Let me preface this by saying Greg Zuerlein has typically been a reliable kicker. This year has been a bit different. He’s converting under 84% of his extra points which is 28th in the league. He’s also just 2-for-5 on field goals of 50 or more yards. For a man who was fondly referred to as Greg the Leg, Dallas would like to see a bit more consistency come playoff time. (LWR 7)

6. Los Angeles Rams (10-4) ~ Arizona to continue to struggle. A few weeks ago it seemed improbable at best that the Rams could win the NFC West. Now, with just three games remaining, they are in a virtual tie with the Cardinals. Locking up the division would guarantee the Rams at least one home playoff game as they vie to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in their own stadium. (LWR 8)

7. Arizona Cardinals (10-4) ~ A tourniquet. You know, to stop the bleeding. Arizona started the year 8-1, but they have lost three of their last five including a baffling blowout loss to the one-win Detroit Lions. I’ve said each team deserved a mulligan throughout the season, but Arizona already used theirs. It’s been three days and I still don’t know how they lost that game, that badly to the Lions. The schedule doesn’t get any easier either with games remaining against the Colts, Cowboys and Seahawks. (LWR 3)

8. Tennessee Titans (9-5) ~ Someone, anyone, on offense to step up. Tennessee has lost three of their last four games and has scored exactly 13 points in each of those losses. Their lone win was a 20-0 victory over Jacksonville. The Titans have been without key offensive contributors like Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones for weeks and they have yet to see someone emerge on offense to become a go-to type guy. They’ll need that if the plan on advancing in the postseason. (LWR 6)

9. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) ~ Jonathan Taylor to continue being Jonathan Taylor. He’s easily the reason the Colts are currently in the number five spot in the AFC playoffs. Taylor is averaging more than 108 rushing yards per game and leads the NFL with 19 total touchdowns. He would get my vote for Offensive Player of the Year if I had one. He should be in the thick of the MVP race as well. (LWR 11)

10. Buffalo Bills (8-6) ~ A win in New England Sunday night. It really is as simple as that. If they can beat the Patriots it would put them back atop the AFC East with just two home games remaining against Atlanta and the New York Jets. I’m looking at this game as a division winner if Buffalo can get the job done. (LWR 12)

11. San Francisco 49ers (8-6) ~ Eli Mitchell to get healthy. Mitchell was not supposed to be the starting running back this year, but Raheem Mostert was lost for the season after just two carriers. Conventional wisdom would have you think that rookie Trey Sermon from Ohio State would be the next man up, but that hasn’t been the case. Mitchell has flourished, when healthy, as the lead back. Deebo Samuel has been handling a lot of carries while Mitchell has been out, but Samuel is best served running routes for this team. If Mitchell gets back on the field, the 49ers offense gets even better. (LWR 13)

12. Baltimore Ravens (8-6) ~ A successful two-point conversion. Let’s think about this. If Baltimore converted on their two-point tries against Green Bay and Pittsburgh they’d be 10-4 and vying for the number one overall seed in the AFC. As it stands today, the Ravens wouldn’t even be in the playoffs. Even if they made just one of them it would dramatically change the team’s playoff trajectory. Here’s hoping the third time is a charm if it comes to that. (LWR 9)

13. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) ~ A successful fourth down conversion. They did convert two of their five attempts against the Chiefs, but, had they made one more of them they probably come out of Kansas City with the AFC West lead. Even if they kicked a field goal on any of those attempts they probably walk out of there as winners, but, Head Coach Brandon Staley puts his trust in his players and they back his decisions. The Chargers appear to be a fun team on the rise and one that nobody will want to face in the playoffs. (LWR 10)

14. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) ~ A playoff berth. If the season ended today, the Bengals would be the AFC North champions. Their eight wins is already more than the six wins they had in 2019 and 2020 combined. This team still has flaws, but they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs which I believe would surpass even the most optimistic Bengals’ fans pre-season expectations. (LWR 14)

15. Cleveland Browns (7-7) ~ To keep their streak alive. By that I mean the team has alternated wins and losses over their last nine games. If they keep that streak alive that would mean they go in to Lambeau Field this weekend, on a short week, while recovering from a Covid outbreak and beat Aaron Rodgers at home. The Packers are undefeated at home this season. While I don’t see that happening, the Browns desperately need that win if they want to return to the playoffs. (LWR 15)

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) ~ One more vintage Ben Roethlisberger moment. I get it. Big Ben has not looked like himself this season. He looks like the game has passed him by. While that may be true, Roethlisberger has wowed Steelers fans for much of his 18-year career and they will hope that he has one last vintage moment in him to help propel this team to the playoffs. Could it be this weekend in Kansas City? (LWR 17)

17. Miami Dolphins (7-7) ~ Chaos. Miami was left for dead after a brutal 1-7 start. All they’ve done since then is rip off six straight wins to get themselves back in the playoff picture. It’s still a bit blurry, but if you squint, you can just about see it happening. The Dolphins do not control their own destiny, however, so they will be rooting for chaos in the AFC for the next three weeks. (LWR 18)

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18. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7) ~ A quiet offseason. For a .500 team, we sure have heard a lot about the Raiders this year. From the resignation of their head coach due to some questionable emails to losing a first round pick in regards to a horrific accident in which someone lost their life, the Raiders have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. No matter how this season finishes, I’m sure they’ll be glad to be out of the spotlight for a while. (LWR 20)

19. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) ~ Revenge on the New York Giants. Back on November 28th the Eagles played, what I believe, to be their worst game of the season. They scored just seven points and turned the ball over four times in a humiliating loss to the Giants. The Eagles, on short rest, now play host to those same Giants as they make their late-season playoff push. Had the Eagles won that previous matchup, they’d be currently holding a playoff spot heading into this weekend’s game. (LWR 21)

20. New Orleans Saints (7-7) ~ An answer at quarterback. We all knew things would be different in New Orleans this year once Drew Brees decided to call it a career. His replacements haven’t provided much hope that they can successfully lead this team in the future. Jameis Winston was OK before being injured against his former team on Halloween. Backups Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill have looked, well, more like capable backups rather than a franchise quarterback. Whether it be in free agency or in the draft, look for the Saints to add a quarterback or two to the roster. (LWR 22)

21. Denver Broncos (7-7) ~ Teddy Bridgewater to recover from his concussion. The thing plaguing this team since Peyton Manning retired has been a steady presence at quarterback. That changed this year when Bridgewater was brought to town. He suffered a concussion Sunday and is unlikely to be ready to play this weekend. Denver’s slim playoff chances may rest on backup Drew Lock’s shoulders. (LWR 16)

22. Minnesota Vikings (7-7) ~ Aaron Rodgers to move on from Green Bay. After the Super Bowl, there was a lot of speculation on whether Rodgers would return to Green Bay. So much so, that I thought it wise to think the Vikings would win this otherwise atrocious division. Rodgers did not move on and the Packers again won the NFC North. The Vikings best chance at the division title lies with Rodgers no longer under center in Green Bay. (LWR 23)

23. Washington Football Team (6-8) ~ Any of their quarterbacks to be healthy. Their game against the Eagles was moved from Sunday to last night, but that still wasn’t enough time for one of their quarterbacks to clear Covid protocol. Instead, Garrett Gilbert made his second NFL start after being with the team for less than a week. None of Washington’s top three quarterbacks to start the season were available. That loss might be enough to close the door on Washington’s playoff chances. (LWR 19)

24. Atlanta Falcons (6-8) ~ Calvin Ridley’s mental health to improve. If you recall, Ridley stepped away from football earlier this year to focus on his mental health. That left Atlanta down their top two receivers from last year as Julio Jones now plays for the Titans. The Falcons passing game has not been the same. Mental health comes before sports and I wish Ridley and his family well. (LWR 24)

25. Seattle Seahawks (5-9) ~ Member berries. For the first time in Russell Wilson’s 10-year career, the Seahawks are going to finish with a losing record. This might also be Wilson’s swan song as a member of the Seahawks. If this is it, the Seahawks and their fans will have to look to the member berries and think about all the good times they’ve had over the past decade. (LWR 25)

26. Carolina Panthers (5-9) ~ A do-over at the quarterback position. Let’s rewind about a year or so, shall we? The team signed Teddy Bridgewater, cut Cam Newton, traded for Sam Darnold, traded Bridgewater away, picked up Darnold’s fifth year option and then re-signed Newton after not feeling that great about P.J. Walker. I’m guessing they’d like to re-visit all of those moves if they could. (LWR 26)

27. New York Giants (4-10) ~ A positive end to the season. It seemed like if it could go wrong, it did go wrong for the Giants this season. It’s another lost year in New York, however, they can still play spoiler this weekend if they can upset the Eagles and take the season series. It might not be much, but it’s about all the Giants and their fans can hope for at this point. (LWR 27)

28. Chicago Bears (4-10) ~ A new head coach. I admit it. I took the easy way out here. It feels like every week that goes by is another disappointment in Chicago and the brunt of it all falls on Matt Nagy. Odds are he will not be the head coach next season. Where will the Bears turn to find their new leader? There is some talent in Chicago with Justin Fields, David Montgomery and Darnell Mooney. Someone will want this job. (LWR 28)

29. New York Jets (3-11) ~ Another win. They have a great shot this weekend when they host the Jaguars. Everyone knew this would be a re-building year in New York and if they can find another win for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson it would be a step in the right direction for next season. (LWR 29)

30. Detroit Lions (2-11-1) ~ A good draft pick. The Lions are not a great team. This is not a secret. But, the team plays hard for first year coach Dan Campbell and they seem to have fully bought into his system. Detroit should have a top three pick in the draft and should use it on the best available player regardless of position as this team is bereft of talent. (LWR 31)

31. Houston Texans (3-11) ~ A full season slate of games against the Jaguars. Houston has just two wins this season and two of them are against Jacksonville. Their other win was against the Titans so the Texans are actually 3-2 in the AFC South which is the same mark as the Colts. (LWR 32)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) ~ The number one overall pick. Again. Jacksonville drafted Trevor Lawrence first overall in last year’s draft. Now, with just three games remaining, the Jaguars have a real shot at earning that number one pick for a second straight year. The Jags need a lot of help in a lot of places so having their pick of the litter would be something to look forward to in the spring. (LWR 30)

And that is that. That's all I've got this week. You're now free to go about the rest of your day. Or night. Whatever it may be. If you want more of me, leave a comment below or follow me on social media via the link in my bio.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Rich

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