Another week, another power rankings. Tomorrow brings our first Thursday night game (I consider the week one game a gimmick) and it’s a relatively important one: Oakland and San Diego are tied for first in the AFC West, and only one team is likely to make it out of that division. Specific predictions for that game tomorrow; power rankings and playoff predictions today!
The Packers still lead the power rankings. Hard to fault the only undefeated team in the league. Despite losing a close one, the Patriots are still fourth, and the Saints and Texans round out the top 4. I have to mention the Lions; they come in at 11th, essentially tied with Buffalo. At the other end, did you know the Rams are worse than the Colts? It’s apparently true. One reason that might be: despite being pretty similar in terms of passing attempts, yards per attempt, and interceptions, the Rams have been sacked nearly twice as often as the Colts.
Looking at the remaining schedule, the Packers still have a clear path to the best record in the league. Let’s break it down by division. Starting with the Packers in the NFC North, we expect about 14 wins now. The Lions come in at 10, the Bears at 9, and the Vikings at 5. In the NFC South, we have the Saints at 10, Falcons at 9, Bucs at 7, and the Panthers at 6. The West is basically over, with the 49ers at 12 wins, Seahawks at 5, Cardinals at 5, and the Rams at 3. So the 49ers have already won more games than we expect anyone else to get to. Time to start resting the starters? Finally, in the NFC East we have the Giants at 10, the Cowboys at 8, the Eagles at 8, and the Redskins at 6. That would give us a playoff picture of Packers and 49ers with byes, Lions, Giants, Saints, and either Chicago or Atlanta playing in the first round. Essentially the same as what we saw last week, although the Giants really helped themselves and the Eagles really hurt themselves.
In the AFC North we have the Ravens at 11 wins, the Bengals at 11, the Steelers at 10, and the Browns at 6. Even though my model had Pittsburgh winning, I was happy to see the Ravens pull out that game. I don’t like the Steelers. In the AFC South the Texans are at 11 wins, Titans at 7, Jaguars at 5, and the Colts at 2. The AFC West is basically making stuff up, but I have the Chargers at 9 wins, Raiders at 7, Chiefs at 7, and the Broncos at 6. Finally the AFC East is Patriots 11, Bills 10, Jets 9, and Dolphins 4. That gives the byes to, I think, Baltimore and Houston and first round games for the Patriots, Chargers, Bengals, and either the Steelers or Bills. It’s all pretty tight. The Steelers cost themselves with their loss, and the Bills appear to be losing steam.
Besides the Thursday night game, the especially important ones this weekend look like Steelers-Bengals, Saints-Falcons, Broncos-Chiefs, Lions-Bears, and Patriots-Jets. Tighter projections mean more important games, and this week seems to have a few more divisional games than usual. I’m tempted to say the picture will be a little clearer after this weekend, but experience tells me otherwise.