Archive for the ‘Power Rankings’ Category

End-of-season GLS Rankings

The Cardinals have climbed all the way to the 12 spot to finish the year.

Just for the hell of it, I compared these rankings to my original rankings, published days before the season began. Some interesting notes:

Biggest surprises: 49ers (up 26 spots), Bengals (up 21 spots), Panthers (up 17 spots), Cardinals (up 16 spots), Seahawks (up 14 spots).

Biggest disappointments: Buccaneers (down 24 spots), Rams (down 18 spots), Chargers (down 15 spots), Chiefs (down 11 spots), Colts (down 11 spots), Jets (down 10 spots).

Teams that did exactly as I expected: Packers (no movement), Patriots (no movement), Cowboys (no movement), Vikings (no movement), Browns (no movement), Steelers (down 1 spot).

1. Green Bay Packers (15-1)
Last week: 1st
Preseason: 1st

What does it say about the NFL in 2011 that the league’s best team, by almost all measures, has the league’s worst defense on paper? The only other NFL team giving up more than 400 yards per game? Fourth-ranked New England.

2. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Last week: 2nd
Preseason: 7th

It feels like it’s their year. Then again, it also feels like it’s Green Bay’s year. And besides, didn’t both of those teams just have their ‘years’? I don’t know what to think at this point.

3. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Last week: 3rd
Preseason: 29th

Saturday, Jan. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET: San Francisco hosts its first playoff game since 2002, but might be an underdog if they face the Saints.

4. New England Patriots (13-3)
Last week: 4th
Preseason: 4th

The much-maligned defense has really shown up in the second halves of their last two games. Scary. They have a real chance to break that six-year Super Bowl drought.

5. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
Last week: 5th
Preseason: 12th

It’s all about Ray Rice on offense and Terrell Suggs on defense. Those guys both have the ability to take over games.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Last week: 6th
Preseason: 5th

At this point, I think they can win in Denver no problem, regardless of who’s at running back, outside linebacker and free safety.

7. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Last week: 8th
Preseason: 3rd

Matt Ryan might finally get that first playoff win Sunday at MetLife. On paper, it should be all Atlanta against the shorthanded Giants, who won the NFC East by default. All that said, I’m nervous for them.

8. Detroit Lions (10-6)
Last week: 7th
Preseason: 14th

I’ve said they can beat anyone, anywhere with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but the defense cannot perform like it did in Week 17 Saturday night in New Orleans. Because if they do, 45 points might not be enough for Stafford, Johnson and the offense.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
Last week: 10th
Preseason: 2nd

Four-game winning streak and a full head of steam headed into the offseason. They should have all the key cogs back in 2012, with DeSean Jackson the only question mark. They’re the extremely early NFC East favorite for next year.

10. New York Giants (9-7)
Last week: 18th
Preseason: 22nd

If Eli Manning can get hot again and the pass rush can kick it up a notch like it did in 2007, anything can happen. But don’t count on it.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
Last week: 13th
Preseason: 32nd

Getting Andy Dalton some playoff experience ASAP. Can’t hurt, right? And with the Texans up first, there’s a decent chance Dalton registers his first playoff win before Matt Ryan.

12. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Last week: 16th
Preseason: 28th

If only they had a quarterback, they might be my breakout team of 2012. Don’t feel good about Kevin Kolb (never did) and John Skelton probably isn’t the answer, either.

13. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Last week: 11th
Preseason: 27th

They can’t afford to lose a 25-year-old Marshawn Lynch after that season. Big payday coming for Lynch, who is slated to become a free agent with impeccable timing.

14. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Last week: 12th
Preseason: 31st

I can see it now: Cam Newton throwing passes to Justin Blackmon for the playoff-bound Panthers in 2012. Did you also just pee a little?

15. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Last week: 17th
Preseason: 17th

With the right coach, they can compete for a division title in 2012. Jeff Fisher or Bill Cowher could breathe new life into this team.

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Last week: 9th
Preseason: 16th

Again, the above-average yet overhyped Cowboys fall short. Next year will be do-or-die for Jason Garrett.

17. Denver Broncos (8-8)
Last week: 14th
Preseason: 26th

One touchdown and nine turnovers in three straight losses for Tim Tebow. And the loss of Chris Kuper adds injury to insult. The Broncos are in big trouble this weekend with the Steelers coming to town.

18. Houston Texans (10-6)
Last week: 15th
Preseason: 9th

They really were a Super Bowl contender in 2011, but luck wasn’t on their side. Injuries truly are the worst part about professional football. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem fair. Then again, it’s how you deal with your injuries. Look at the Packers in 2010.

19. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Last week: 19th
Preseason: 21st

Watch out for these guys. A lot of balance and quite a young core. They flew under the radar this year, and ended up being the only team with a winning record to miss the playoffs.

20. New York Jets (8-8)
Last week: 20th
Preseason: 10th

Why the hell is Brian Schottenheimer a chic head-coaching candidate? Did no one watch the Jets offense this season? And same for Mike Pettine? The defense took a giant step backward! It all seems so arbitrary.

21. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
Last week: 22nd
Preseason: 6th

Philip Rivers takes all the heat, but they finish with a middle-of-the-pack defense that registered only 32 sacks and 21 takeaways. The transition from Ron Rivera to Greg Manusky was not successful in Year 1. The question now: Will this coaching staff get another chance?

22. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Last week: 24th
Preseason: 11th

New head coach and the return of Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki. It’ll be an exciting offseason in KC.

23. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
Last week: 21st
Preseason: 20th

Prediction: Hue Jackson and Carson Palmer won’t be in Oakland in 2013.

24. Chicago Bears (8-8)
Last week: 23rd
Preseason: 15th

I’ll repeat what I said about the Texans: They really were a Super Bowl contender in 2011, but luck wasn’t on their side. Next year should be promising, but the Lions and Packers aren’t going away and that defense isn’t getting any younger.

 25. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
Last week: 25th last week
Preseason: 25th

Sure, they led the league with 50 sacks, but a 107.6 opponent passer rating is simply embarrassing. They have to address that secondary in the draft and free agency.

26. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Last week: 26th
Preseason: 23rd

Dave Wannstedt is the new defensive coordinator. Solid start to the offseason. And I’m not even being sarcastic. Get healthy, draft well and be a player in free agency and 2012 could be a real breakout season.

27. Washington Redskins (5-11)
Last week: 27th
Preseason: 24th

Still quite a lot of work to do. Like the Bills, they showed glimpses of excellence early before fading. What happened to that pass rush? Mike Shanahan is running out of time.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Last week: 28th
Preseason: 19th

They’re pushing for offensive head-coaching candidates, which indicates to me that new owner Shad Khan isn’t ready to give up on Blaine Gabbert. And that’s a shame.

29. Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
Last week: 29th
Preseason: 18th

I like Jim Irsay’s gall, because I think the Polians had become complacent. It’s time for a new regime and a new era in Indianapolis.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Last week: 30th
Preseason: 30th

If you have the chance, please draft Robert Griffin III. Please, please, pleaseee.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Last week: 32nd
Preseason: 13th

Whoever the new head coach is, I highly doubt he decides to keep the fiery Josh McDaniels around. That means three coordinators — and potentially three different offenses — in three years for Sam Bradford. Growth-stunting stuff.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
Last week: 31st
Preseason: 8th

Can’t believe they gave up a ridiculous 494 points. That’s 45 more than the 31st-ranked Vikings and 64 more than the Colts, who surrendered 62 in one game.

Week 17 GLS Rankings

The Panthers, who have won four of five, move into the top 12.

1. Green Bay Packers (14-1, 1st last week): It’s almost as if they heard us mumbling under our breath about the offense fading and the defense tripping. That was a statement Sunday night.

2. New Orleans Saints (12-3, 2nd last week): Both were dominant this week, and the Saints have actually been much more dominant of late. It remains a toss up, but I can’t swap them until the Packers do something to merit a drop.

3. San Francisco 49ers (12-3, 3rd last week): That wasn’t a pretty victory in Seattle, but when’s the last time San Fran won pretty? The defense is dominant and the offense doesn’t make mistakes. Is that a Super Bowl formula? Not typically, but they’re in the mix.

4. New England Patriots (12-3, 4th last week): Was the second half against Miami the turning point for a defense that has struggled all season? Because the Bills should be a breeze, we might not have an answer until the divisional playoffs.

5. Baltimore Ravens (11-4, 5th last week): What’s wrong with the offense? They’re averaging just under 20 points per game over the last five weeks. Need more than that to beat the Packers or Saints.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4, 6th last week): If they’re healthy in January, they might be the AFC’s best team. And it’s not like they haven’t won as a wild-card entry before…

7. Detroit Lions (10-5, 10th last week): Red-hot again. It’s just a shame Lions-Packers means pretty much nothing this week.

8. Atlanta Falcons (9-6), 8th last week): I didn’t expect them to win in New Orleans, where no one wins. But I expected more than that. They’ve been far too inconsistent this season.

9. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, 11th last week): Tony Romo’s hurting and Montrae Holland is out. Yet I’m still surprised that the borderline terrible Giants are a three-point favorite with the division on the line at MetLife.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (7-8, 13th last week): And DeSean Jackson watch officially begins…

11. Seattle Seahawks (7-8, 17th last week): Can still improve their win total for the third straight year by beating the Cardinals in Week 17. I expect that to happen again in 2012, but maybe with a jump into the double digits. This is a good football team.

12. Carolina Panthers (6-9, 18th last week): Looking like a playoff team in 2012. Then again, that’s what we said about the Buccaneers at about this time last year.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6, 24th last week): Not only might they find the back door to the playoffs, but they might keep getting lucky with the depleted Texans on wild-card weekend. They’re a mediocre team that could be a fluke victory away from the AFC championship game.

14.  Denver Broncos (8-7, 9th last week): Tim Tebow has lost his clutchicity and the defense has lots its ability to make big plays. The Chiefs are going to present one hell of a challenge.

15. Houston Texans (10-5, 7th last week): Decent chance they finish the season on a three-game skid, equalling their loss total from the first 14 weeks. It’s been a positive year, but it doesn’t look as though it’s going to end on a high note.

16. Arizona Cardinals (7-8, 16th last week): What’s with the slow starts? A terrible first half and some errors in the final minutes cost them their season in Cincy.

17. Miami Dolphins (5-10, 19th last week): Sentence I never though I’d write: I’m really excited to see the Matt Moore-Reggie Bush-Brandon Marshall trio from the get-go in 2012.

18. New York Giants (8-7, 15th last week): Where would they be without sophomores Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul?

19. Tennessee Titans (8-7, 21st last week): If every Week 17 game involving a AFC wild-card contender is won by the Vegas favorite, the Titans get the conference’s sixth seed, setting up a rematch with the Texans six or seven days later.

20. New York Jets (8-7, 14th last week): Brian Schottenheimer’s had too many chances. The Jets have to fire him and acquire a quarterback (via the draft, free agency or a trade) to compete with Mark Sanchez.

21. Oakland Raiders (8-7, 20th last week): Might they be getting healthy again at just the right time? They’ll need to slay the Chargers and get help. Otherwise, 2012 will be a do-or-die season for Carson Palmer and Hue Jackson.

22. San Diego Chargers (7-8, 12th last week): Norv Turner’s fighting for his job, so expect them to put up a fight in Oakland.

23. Chicago Bears (7-8, 22nd last week): On the verge of finishing 7-9 for the third time in five years. How many lives does Lovie Smith have? Probably at least one more, because injuries killed the Bears this year.

24. Kansas City Chiefs (6-9, 23rd last week): If beating the Packers was their Super Bowl, spoiling the Broncos’ season would have to be their conference championship victory. Or something like that.

25. Minnesota Vikings (3-12, 26th last week): The big question now: Why was Adrian Peterson playing if he was anything less than 100 percent in the final stages of a lost season?

26. Buffalo Bills (6-9, 28th last week): I have absolutely no idea what to make of that out-of-the-clear-blue-sky victory against a division leader at the Ralph.

27. Washington Redskins (5-10, 25th last week): And the quarterback draft debate begins again…

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11, 27th last week): I get the feeling they’ll give Blaine Gabbert one more full season as the starter, but can you imagine how bad he’d be without NFL leading rusher Maurice Jones-Drew? It’s enough to make you throw up in your mouth a little.

29. Indianapolis Colts (2-13, 32nd last week): Again, it’s hard to lose on purpose, and right now they’re just as good as, if not better than, the Jags. The battle for the top pick is going to get intense at around 3:30 ET on Sunday.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-11, 29th last week): Peyton Hillis waited until Week 16 for his first 100-yard rushing effort of the year. Don’t expect a repeat performance with the Steelers on deck.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11, 30th last week): I can’t imagine a scenario that doesn’t have Raheem Morris losing his job next Monday.

32. St. Louis Rams (2-13, 31st last week): Pretty amazing that the two breakout teams of 2010 are a combined 6-24 in 2011.

Week 16 GLS Rankings

The Eagles are shooting up the rankings, but is it too little too late?

1. Green Bay Packers (13-1, 1st last week): The defense is a huge liability when they aren’t making big plays, and a good secondary can limit Aaron Rodgers. Injuries are also becoming a factor. I really sweated this decision.

2. New Orleans Saints (11-3, 2nd last week): I kept Green Bay ahead of red-hot New Orleans because the Pack have still scored 1.6 more points per game and allowed 0.6 fewer points per game than the Saints. The Saints are hotter and healthier, but Green Bay has still managed to outscore its last four opponents by 40 points despite playing three of those games on the road and only one at home. New Orleans has been a little better, but the competition has been a little weaker (opponents are 25-31, as opposed to Green Bay’s 29-27 opponent record). This is close, but I’m not ready to move the Saints ahead just yet.

3. San Francisco 49ers (11-3, 6th last week): It took some time to develop and might come with an asterisk, but that was one hell of a defensive performance Monday night. Can’t believe they still haven’t given up a rushing touchdown all season. The Niners have an easy schedule now, so there’s a good chance they’ll force the Saints to play a wild-card game.

4. New England Patriots (11-3, 4th last week): They’ll miss Andre Carter, who had emerged as the team’s top pass rusher to help compensate for a terrible secondary. They don’t look like a Super Bowl team, but who does in the AFC?

5. Baltimore Ravens (10-4, 3rd last week): “Championship teams don’t take a step back,” said Terrell Suggs. And yet the Ravens have done so on four distinct occasions this year. I’m worried about the Ravens, but still not ruling them out in the jumbled AFC.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4, 7th last week): And now Ben Roethlisberger only has four off days to ice that ankle before another game. Have to wonder if they’ll consider resting him against St. Louis and Cleveland.

7. Houston Texans (10-4, 5th last week): Maybe Wade Phillips was the biggest loss of all. Then again, what could Phillips do about his players getting beat up by the Panthers down the stretch Sunday? That was just weird…

8. Atlanta Falcons (9-5, 10th last week): Was that a turning point Thursday against Jacksonville, or was it just a game against Jacksonville? They can send a real message Monday night in New Orleans, in what could be one of the best games of 2011.

9. Denver Broncos (8-6, 8th last week): I love that they may have to beat Kyle Orton and the Chiefs to win the division in Week 17. Just poetically beautiful.

10. Detroit Lions (9-5, 12th last week): Nice comeback, but to win in January they’re going to have to get healthier in the secondary.

11. Dallas Cowboys (8-6, 13th last week): Took care of business against a bad team. Now, the biggest game of Christmas Eve against suddenly smokin’ Philly. The NFC East is completely up in the air — I’m not about to make any predictions.

12. San Diego Chargers (7-7, 22nd last week): I still try to consider the season as a whole when I do these rankings, but right now, only a handful of NFL teams are better than the Chargers and Eagles.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (6-8, 23rd last week): See: 12. San Diego Chargers.

14. New York Jets (8-6, 9th last week): It’s a bit concerning that they continue to struggle against good teams. I know the Eagles don’t qualify for this, but the Jets have yet to beat a team with a winning record since Week 1.

15. New York Giants (7-7, 11th last week): If they blow this, does Tom Coughlin lose his job? Considering the lowered expectations based on early injuries, I’m not sure that would be fair.

16. Arizona Cardinals (7-7, 14th last week): The NFC West is suddenly respectable — it might be one hell of a division to watch in 2012.

17. Seattle Seahawks (7-7, 20th last week): No longer just a sneaky good home team. They’ve won in New York and Chicago now. And St. Louis, if that matters to anyone.

18. Carolina Panthers (5-9, 21st last week): See what happens when you run consistently and run hard? I haven’t seen burst like that out of DeAngelo Williams since he was a rookie.

19. Miami Dolphins (5-9, 15th last week): Holy, Reggie Bush! If they can hire the right coach, the Dolphins will be a major player in 2012.

20. Oakland Raiders (7-7, 16th last week): Losing on the road to Miami and Green Bay is somewhat understandable, but with those blowouts in mind, the collapse at home against Detroit might have been a back-breaker. And now they have to go to Kansas City, and then host the red-hot Chargers. Maybe next year (again).

21. Tennessee Titans (7-7, 17th last week): Once again, a victim of a lack of consistency. They had an inside track for a wild-card spot, but it’s probably too late now. You just can’t afford to lose home games and games against teams like Indy in December.

22. Chicago Bears (7-7, 18th last week): For those who were critical of Jay Cutler since his arrival in Chicago, the last four games should have shut you up pretty quickly.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (6-8, 27th last week): Then again, seeing Kyle Orton slay the unbeaten Packers probably only added fuel to the fire for fans in Chicago. These Chiefs hang with everyone, and they’re still alive with two games remaining.

24. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, 19th last week): Still alive after having to survive the Rams, but A.J. Green’s injury could be a killer.

25. Washington Redskins (5-9, 26th last week): At the very least, they’ll probably be the primary reason why the rival Giants won’t make the playoffs. Two beautiful performances against New York.

26. Minnesota Vikings (2-12, 24th last week): I don’t buy it, Visanthe. Guys have too much to lose personally to hang it up early in a one-sided game. Not in this me-first league.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10, 25th last week): Not many teams follow up a 41-14 victory with a 41-14 loss, so consider yourself special, Jacksonville. I hope your new owner is prepared for a rebuild.

28. Buffalo Bills (5-9, 28th last week): Depressing. At least Tim Tebow will bring some excitement to Orchard Park in the home season finale.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-10, 30th last week): On one hand, quarterback controversy! On the other hand, who cares…

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10, 29th last week): This was a 10-win team last year? What the hell? Raheem Morris will need quite an excuse to survive this.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-12, 31st last week): Respectable effort against the Bengals, but word is they’re going to blow things up this offseason regardless. The first overall pick would help greatly. It’s still very possible.

32. Indianapolis Colts (1-13, 32nd last week): I have a weird feeling about the Colts at home Thursday night against Houston. In fact, a 3-0 finish wouldn’t completely shock me.

Week 15 GLS Rankings

With their fifth win in six games, the Cards move up eight spots. And so their cheerleaders get some pub.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-0, 1st last week): The Greg Jennings injury shouldn’t hurt them, but it might serve as a cautionary tale for Mike McCarthy. Luck’s been on your side lately, Packers. Don’t push it.

2. New Orleans Saints (10-3, 3rd last week): A little too close for comfort in Nashville, as they continue to struggle on outdoor grass. They move up by virtue of bigger problems in San Francisco.

3. Baltimore Ravens (10-3, 4th last week): Killing it ever since that shocking loss to Seattle. And with a weak schedule coming in, the Ravens might end up with the top seed in the AFC.

4. New England Patriots (10-3, 5th last week): Unless of course the Pats steal it from them. If New England can beat Denver, they’ll almost definitely finish the season on an eight-game winning streak. But based on how they played in Washington, I wouldn’t rule out another Broncos upset.

5. Houston Texans (10-3, 6th last week): With Carolina (at home), Indy (away) and Tennessee (at home) to finish the year, there’s a good chance T.J. Yates starts his first playoff game with a 5-0 record. That would also mean the Texans will have won 10 straight prior to the divisional playoffs.

6. San Francisco 49ers (10-3, 2nd last week): I’m very concerned about the league’s worst red-zone offense with tough games against Pittsburgh and Seattle coming up. What this all means: Patrick Willis might have to play one week earlier than originally expected, because it’s beginning to look like San Fran will have to play on wild-card weekend.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3, 7th last week): Ben Roethlisberger is hurt (again) and James Harrison is in jeopardy of being suspended. Turmoil for a team that can’t seem to avoid it and doesn’t have room for error. And now a huge game in San Fran.

8. Denver Broncos (8-5, 8th last week): Can we agree that it’s not luck but it’s also not “God’s favor“? Otherwise, God has some messed up priorities. Let’s just agree that luck has played a role (easy schedule), and so has clutch play, good defense and a unique offense that is just productive enough to be successful. End of story.

9. New York Jets (8-5, 10th last week): Having to adjust on the fly to life without Jim Leonhard. With three challenges against Philly (away), the Giants (“home”) and Miami (away) to finish the season, it won’t be easy. On the bright side, the Bengals, Titans and Raiders aren’t exactly posing large threats to their wild-card spot.

10. Atlanta Falcons (8-5, 9th last week): When’s the last time they just smashed a weaker opponent? And Indianapolis doesn’t count…

11. New York Giants (7-6, 13th last week): Thanks, Tom Coughlin. I’m pretty sure we’ll never see the day in which icing the kicker is buried forever. That icing might have changed New York’s entire season. Same for Dallas’. Eli Manning was better than Tony Romo Sunday night, and that, plus the icing, was the difference.

12. Detroit Lions (8-5, 15th last week): They probably would have been 1-1 with or without Ndamukong Suh the last two games. And they’re actually in even better shape in the playoff race now than they were before the suspension. With a tiebreaker advantage over Dallas and the Bears struggling, Detroit’s probably going to the playoffs.

13. Dallas Cowboys (7-6, 12th last week): Down goes DeMarco Murray. Imagine Tiki Barber, in New York to play the Giants as a member of the rival Cowboys with a division title on the line, Jan. 1 at MetLife. Just throwing it out there.

14. Arizona Cardinals (6-7, 22nd last week): Um, 4-1 under John Skelton ($405,000 salary). 2-5 under Kevin Kolb ($10.8 million salary). We could have a problem here.

15. Miami Dolphins (4-9, 11th last week): They did the right thing in getting rid of Tony Sparano. Have to wonder how good they might have been this season with Jim Harbaugh as head coach.

16. Oakland Raiders (7-6, 14th last week): It’s amazing the role injuries play in deciding playoff teams. With a slew of weapons out, they’ve been outscored 80-30 in two games. But a win against Detroit and a Denver loss to New England could change everything.

17. Tennessee Titans (7-6, 18th last week): Against Indy and Jacksonville, they should prevail regardless of who’s at quarterback. But to make the playoffs, they’ll probably have to win in Houston in Week 17.

18. Chicago Bears (7-6, 16th last week): We’ve ruled them out preemptively before, but with a Green Bay road game looming, there’s almost no margin for error, and they’d still need help. I don’t think they can do it without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.

19. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6, 17th last week): Four losses in five games and a tough schedule to finish. They’ll probably have to run the table against St. Louis, Arizona and Baltimore without top guard Bobbie Williams. Fat lady’s warming up in Cincy.

20. Seattle Seahawks (6-7, 21st last week): The Wrigley Company, Mars Inc. and those directly in charge of the Skittles brand would like to thank Marshawn Lynch, the 12th Man, the NFL’s schedule-makers and serendipitous timing.

21. Carolina Panthers (4-9, 19th last week): Blew a chance to play spoiler against the Falcons. What happened to Cam Newton in the second half?

22. San Diego Chargers (6-7, 20th last week): Once again turning it around in December — they’ve outscored their last two opponents 75-24. But the schedule gets tough again now, and it’s probably too little, too late.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8, 26th last week): Nine sacks, a pick and two forced fumbles? Where’d that come from? Too late, but quite a defensive performance in Miami.

24. Minnesota Vikings (2-11, 27th last week): At least they’ve found Percy Harvin again. Oh, and they’ll probably have a top-three pick in April’s draft.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9, 29th last week): They’re playing in another prime-time game Thursday? What the hell did we do to deserve this?

26. Washington Redskins (4-9, 28th last week): So I’ve concluded that DeAngelo Hall has Rob Gronkowski on his fantasy team. Man, if not for Gronk, the ‘Skins might have won that thing.

27. Kansas City Chiefs (5-8, 23rd last week): With Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki out, I’m not sure what the front office was expecting from Todd Haley. This isn’t on him.

28. Buffalo Bills (5-8, 25th last week): How far and quickly have they fallen? Only six weeks ago they were ranked sixth on this list. Now, they’re fifth-last.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9, 24th last week): Did you seriously just allow 41 points to an offense that hadn’t scored 20 all year? Raheem Morris is screwed.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-9, 30th last week): Decent defensive performance in Pittsburgh. Still a freakin’ mess on offense.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-11, 31st last week): That did not look like a healthy Sam Bradford. Why force it when you’re a two-win team?

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-13, 32nd last week): And now Dan Orlovsky has fallen back to earth. The fairy tale is over in Indy.

Week 14 GLS Rankings

1. Green Bay Packers (12-0, 1st last week): OK, they’ve been cutting it close lately, but the good news is that everyone they might play in the divisional playoffs is struggling right now. The real test will come the following weekend. San Francisco or New Orleans at Green Bay. That’s hawt.

2. San Francisco 49ers (10-2, 2nd last week): The Patrick Willis injury would hurt if they had anything left to play for. Let’s face it, they’re locked in as the No. 2 seed in the NFC after another dominant victory Sunday.

3. New Orleans Saints (9-3, 5th last week): They might actually be more dangerous than the 2009 team was. But they still need more takeaways on defense.

4. Baltimore Ravens (9-3, 3rd last week): Just 16 points allowed in their last two games. And keep in mind that they’re doing this sans Ray Lewis.

5. New England Patriots (9-3, 4th last week): They’ve won four straight and can outscore anybody, but it’s a bit concerning that they’ve resorted to using a pair of receivers in the secondary and surrendered 24 points to the terrible Colts Sunday. That was Indy’s best offensive game of the year.

6. Houston Texans (9-3, 6th last week): Six straight wins despite all of those injuries. And look at the schedule: Cincy, Carolina, Indy, Tennessee. They might have four more wins in them. Could T.J. Yates be the starting quarterback for a No. 1 seed in January?

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3, 7th last week): Encouraging to see them exhibit very good offensive balance against Cincinnati’s stout run defense.

8. Denver Broncos (7-5, 9th last week): Survived without Von Miller. And now three of their final four games are against teams in disaster mode. The AFC West should be theirs.

9. Atlanta Falcons (7-5, 8th last week): Dunta Robinson killed the Falcons against his former team, but the difference was still the Houston defense, which definitely doesn’t miss Robinson.

10. New York Jets (7-5, 15th last week): They aren’t making it easy on themselves, but back-to-back wins have saved a season that was headed in a bad direction.

11. Miami Dolphins (4-8, 16th last week): It’s not as though the Dolphins are overperforming by a lot. It’s just that they were so bad early that the 180-degree turn is startling. This is a playoff-caliber team, but that’s in spite of Tony Sparano.

12. Dallas Cowboys (7-5, 11th last week): Jason Garrett’s completely idiotic clock management screwed his team and his rookie kicker. He was also victimized himself by the reality that kickers are pretty much automatic nowadays. Pretty much automatic. A few extra yards might have changed everything in Glendale. Potential season-altering mistake.

13. New York Giants (6-6, 17th last week): Up four spots after losing for the fourth straight time? That’s what happens when you almost slay Green Bay and every team around you loses.

14. Oakland Raiders (7-5, 10th last week): Too many penalties and too many injuries. And you could say the same thing about…

15. Detroit Lions (7-5, 13th last week): Not sure why Ndamukong Suh took the car crash metaphor that would aptly describe what’s happening to Detroit’s season and decided to bring it to life.

16. Chicago Bears (7-5, 12th last week): How sick would it be if they gambled on Brett Favre? I know most fans are tired of Favre drama, but he’d have a better chance to succeed than Caleb Hanie. And it’s not as though they can’t dumb down the offense on the fly…

17. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5, 14th last week): I don’t think Andy Dalton enjoyed his first formal Pennsylvania-based introduction to James Harrison.

18. Tennessee Titans (7-5, 18th last week): Is there a team in the league getting less attention than the Titans are? And yet Tennessee is tied for the last wild-card spot in the AFC. Chris Johnson might be peaking at the right time.

19. Carolina Panthers (4-8, 24th last week): Cam Newton might have wrapped up the offensive rookie of the year award Sunday. And now his team is only three wins behind Dalton’s Bengals.

20. San Diego Chargers (5-7, 20th last week): The losing streak is over. All it took was Jacksonville with an interim head coach making his debut.

21. Seattle Seahawks (5-7, 28th last week): Most underrated front seven in football. Clemons, Mebane, Bryant, Hawthorne, Hill. Throw in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas and this defense has a very bright future.

22. Arizona Cardinals (5-7, 25th last week): Like four of their five wins have been friggin’ lucky. It’ll only hurt them come draft day.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (5-7, 23rd last week): Credit the defense for stepping up and keeping the Chiefs competitive despite a slew of injuries on offense.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8, 19th last week): On the bright side, Da’Quan Bowers had a breakout game against Carolina. And that’s the end of the bright side.

25. Buffalo Bills (5-7, 22nd last week): 2011 is over (they might not win another game), but at least they’re learning that C.J. Spiller and Brad Smith can be valuable assets in 2012.

26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-8, 21st last week): Eagles-Dolphins this weekend. Best 4-8 vs. 4-8 matchup ever?

27. Minnesota Vikings (2-10, 26th last week): They’ve battled hard without Adrian Peterson. In fact, they’ve only been outscored by more than 10 points twice all year, which is pretty good for a 2-10 team. I don’t group them with St. Louis and Indy.

28. Washington Redskins (4-8, 27th last week): With Fred Davis and Trent Williams likely to be suspended for the remainder of the year, 5-11 or 4-12 is probably what they’re looking at in DC.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9, 29th last week): Nice timing, Shad Khan.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-8, 30th last week): No way Colt McCoy’s their quarterback in a calendar year.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-10, 31st last week): This is pathetic. They probably won’t win again this year, which means that aberrational win against New Orleans could cost them the top pick.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-12, 32nd last week): If Dan Orlovsky plays like that in Jacksonville in Week 17, they’ll avoid 0-16.

Week 13 GLS Rankings

The streaking Patriots are back in the top five.

1. Green Bay Packers (11-0, 1st last week): What is there to say at this point? The NFL’s best team won handily Thursday despite having to travel on extremely short rest. Going 19-0 is a very realistic goal.

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-2, 2nd last week): I still think that, based on what I’ve seen over the first 12 weeks, they’re slightly better than Baltimore on regular rest and at a neutral site.

3. Baltimore Ravens (8-3, 4th last week): We expected that from the defense against San Fran, but no one could have anticipated such a dominant performance from the much-maligned Baltimore offensive line against the Niners’ stellar front seven. Good omen for the final five weeks and the playoffs.

4. New England Patriots (8-3, 6th last week): Might they be peaking at the right time? Tom Brady had his best game since Week 2 against the Eagles, and the Pats have now dominated three straight games (two on the road against tough teams).

5. New Orleans Saints (8-3, 7th last week): Jon Gruden thinks Drew Brees is a conductor and a surgeon. Can we settle on a really, really good quarterback? That was one of the best games of his career.

6. Houston Texans (8-3, 3rd last week): With a rookie fifth-round pick at quarterback, I’m expecting them to continue to drop on this list in upcoming weeks (especially with Atlanta, Cincinnati and Carolina next on the schedule).

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3, 5th last week): We’ve seen that they aren’t the same without Troy Polamalu. They’ve survived a lot of big defensive injuries this year, but if Polamalu has to miss time, it could be a back-breaker.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4, 9th last week): Looks like Will Svitek will be Matt Ryan’s blind side protector going forward, and that’s a good thing. It’s not easy to bench a former top pick, but the way Sam Baker was playing, it was necessary. With Baker on the bench, the Falcons held Jared Allen in check Sunday.

9. Denver Broncos (6-5, 15th last week): They’ve moved up 12 spots in two weeks thanks to wins over the Chargers and Jets, supposedly superior AFC opponents . Looking like a playoff team.

10. Oakland Raiders (7-4, 12th last week): Is it possible that the top two players on a playoff team will be the placekicker and the punter?

11. Dallas Cowboys (7-4, 11th last week): Survived against a feisty Dolphins team and now they’re getting healthier. They’ll be hosting a playoff game in the second week of January.

12. Chicago Bears (7-4, 8th last week): They have to be at least a little encouraged that they hung with the Raiders on the road in Caleb Hanie’s first start, but for the Bears to stay alive, the defense will have to be even better than that. Is that possible?

13. Detroit Lions (7-4, 10th last week): Jim Schwartz was the Tennessee defensive coordinator when Albert Haynesworth stomped on Andre Gurode and the Detroit head coach when Ndamukong Suh stomped on Evan Dietrich-Smith. Coincidence? Things are falling apart in Detroit.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, 13th last week): Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden deserve a lot of credit for being superb halftime adjusters. They’ve been remarkably good in the second half this year.

15. New York Jets (6-5, 14th last week): On an off day, they still survived and beat a desperate team. That said, Darrelle Revis is suddenly human and Mark Sanchez is really struggling early in games.

16. Miami Dolphins (3-8, 17th last week): Solid performance in Dallas. Let’s hope it’s not enough to save Tony Sparano’s job.

17. New York Giants (6-5, 20th last week): Yet another second half slide. Will Tom Coughlin survive this one?

18. Tennessee Titans (6-5, 21st last week): The Titans and Bucs combined for nine turnovers Sunday. Both look like mediocre football teams.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7, 16th last week): See: 18. Tennessee Titans.

20. San Diego Chargers (4-7, 18th last week): Another lost season and that’s probably it for Norv Turner. So much talent, but they seem to do everything wrong. And no one scares you on that defense. It’s baffling.

21. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7, 19th last week): Don’t let Vince Young’s 400-yard performance sway you. Young compiled most of those yards in garbage time against an already-bad pass defense. And don’t put this latest loss entirely on Andy Reid — injuries have hurt this team badly.

22. Buffalo Bills (5-6, 22nd last week): Probably deserved a win in New York, but good teams don’t make those types of game-changing mistakes. And I’m sorry, Stevie Johnson, but that was a drop.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (4-7, 23rd last week): Despite the turnovers against Pittsburgh, Tyler Palko showed some signs of promise.

24. Carolina Panthers (3-8, 25th last week): Offensive balance helped Cam Newton have one of his best games. Then again, it was against Indy…

25. Arizona Cardinals (4-7, 27th last week): Another win despite another terrible John Skelton performance. Their three best players — Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells and Patrick Peterson — have stepped it up.

26. Minnesota Vikings (2-9, 26th last week): Kind of amazing that they’re avoiding embarrassment despite not having Adrian Peterson and being a generally bad football team. That was a little too close for comfort if you’re Atlanta.

27. Washington Redskins (4-7, 30th last week): Ryan Kerrigan disappeared a bit, but the defense still performed well in Seattle. The future is bright for that unit.

28. Seattle Seahawks (4-7, 24th last week): Tom Cable brought a penchant for taking penalties from Oakland to Seattle. Flags killed the Seahawks Sunday.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8, 28th last week): Maurice Jones-Drew gets you 166 yards on 22 touches and the offense manages to score just six points? This team’s a mess. Major changes are needed.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-7, 29th last week): I don’t feel like being pessimistic this week, so I’ll remind everyone that the Browns have the league’s top-ranked pass defense and Joe Haden has become a superstar this year.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-9, 31st last week): On paper, the team should be better than it was last year, and yet they continue to lose consistently. Steve Spagnuolo survived a 1-15 season, but I don’t think he’s going to keep his job after this one.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-11, 32nd last week): Even though Minnesota might not win again, the Indy loss to Carolina pretty much clinches the top pick. No chance they win two of their final five games.

Week 12 GLS Rankings

The Broncos are climbing fast.

1. Green Bay Packers (10-0, 1st last week): The Bucs proved that the Green Bay defense is more vulnerable than most assumed. Now, in 48 hours, the Lions, who beat the Packers in Detroit last December, will have a legit shot at slaying unbeaten Green Bay.

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-1, 2nd last week): They’ve already won in Cincinnati and Detroit. No reason they can’t win in Baltimore.

3. Houston Texans (7-3, 3rd last week): It can’t be a good sign that Jeff Garcia’s name has come up, but I really think they can survive without Matt Schaub temporarily.

4. Baltimore Ravens (7-3, 4th last week): Without Ray Lewis, the next two games are huge for a team that is trying to prove it can win consistently. They have to beat the Niners at home, and they can’t lay an egg the next week in Cleveland.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3, 5th last week): Out of the bye they get the ice-cold Chiefs on short rest followed by back-to-back home games against Cincinnati and Cleveland. They also get to finish the season against the Rams and Browns. The only big challenge: San Francisco (on the road) in Week 15. What the Ravens and Steelers do in their respective games against the Niners could be the difference in the AFC North.

6. New England Patriots (7-3, 6th last week): Blowout win against Kansas City despite not showing up until the start of the third quarter. Then again, it was Kansas City. They could be in for a real challenge this week against the desperate Eagles on the road.

7. New Orleans Saints (7-3, 7th last week): Losses in Tampa and St. Louis were blips on the radar. The rested Saints will prove that over their final six games.

8. Chicago Bears (7-3, 8th last week): The Jay Cutler injury could be a death knell, which is a shame considering how well they were playing. This team isn’t good enough to win in January without a proven veteran at quarterback.

9. Atlanta Falcons (6-4, 9th last week): Great game plan against Tennessee. And the schedule continues to ease up. Keep in mind that they’ve lost just one game in regulation since Sept. 25. And that loss came at the hands of the 10-0 Packers.

10. Detroit Lions (7-3, 10th last week): Yeah, no changes in the top 10 this week. Big recovery win for the Lions. Turns out they had their 2011 answer at running back on the roster three years ago.

11. Dallas Cowboys (6-4, 12th last week): Having a lights-out kicker is an underrated advantage. Dan Bailey, who’s 24 of his last 24, was the difference against Washington.

12. Oakland Raiders (6-4, 13th last week): Nice timing on the Chicago game. They’ll get the first shot at Caleb Hanie before embarking on a very tough five-game stretch to close out the season.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4, 15th last week): I don’t believe in them yet, but maybe I’m just being stubborn. If not for a controversial call killing a Jermaine Gresham touchdown and a tough penalty on the final drive, they probably win in Baltimore.

14. New York Jets (5-5, 11th last week): It’s salvageable. It doesn’t get much easier than what the Jets have over the next three weeks (Buffalo, Washington, Kansas City).

15. Denver Broncos (5-5, 21st last week): The defense and the running game might be good enough for the Broncos to sneak into the playoffs via the weak AFC West. Notice how I didn’t say anything about Tim Tebow?

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6, 18th last week): I think they might have gained a lot of confidence Sunday in Green Bay. The problem is that it was still a loss, and now it might be too late to save the season.

17. Miami Dolphins (3-7, 23rd last week): They haven’t allowed a touchdown on defense in three games (all wins). And in that span, Matt Moore has been the second-best quarterback in football. A few more weeks on that level and Moore has to be considered the permanent starter, period.

18. San Diego Chargers (4-6, 16th last week): Six games remaining in the Norv Turner era, right? I’m not even sure a one-and-done playoff appearance would save Turner’s job now.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 20th last week): Transfer DeSean Jackson’s contributions from Week 11 to Week 10 (when he was benched) and the Eagles beat the Cardinals and are only one game out of first place in the NFC East.

20. New York Giants (6-4, 14th last week): So much for Eli Manning being elite. Can we just stop overreacting to his hot streaks? Because Manning has been supbar in three straight games, all of which would’ve been losses had they not pulled off a minor miracle in New England.

21. Tennessee Titans (5-5, 17th last week): I can give you 20 million reasons why Matt Hasselbeck will remain the Tennessee quarterback going forward, barring injury.

22. Buffalo Bills (5-5, 19th last week): Has a team only one game back of the last playoff spot ever seemed so dead? The playoff drought will continue in 2011. Now the question is, Who’ll be the starting quarterback in 2012?

23. Kansas City Chiefs (4-6, 22nd last week): For what it’s worth, they actually played a lot better than the score would indicate Monday night.

24. Seattle Seahawks (4-6, 28th last week): Four wins and Chris Clemons looking like one of the best defensive ends in the game. Not bad.

25. Carolina Panthers (2-8, 27th last week): Give the damn ball to DeAngelo Williams! Or Jonathan Stewart! Or Stephen Davis for all I care! Just give Cam Newton some support…

26. Minnesota Vikings (2-8, 26th last week): From Donovan McNabb and Adrian Peterson to Christian Ponder and Toby Gerhart. And whatever happened to Percy Harvin?

27. Arizona Cardinals (3-7, 25th last week): So John Skelton isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback? Okay, good to know.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7, 26th last week): Thanks for coming out, Jack Del Rio. My early guess? Del Rio replaces Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati after Zimmer gets a head-coaching job this offseason. Del Rio worked with Marvin Lewis in Baltimore.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-6, 30th last week): Remember Peyton Hillis?

30. Washington Redskins (3-7, 31st last week): Six straight losses coming out of their bye. Charger-esque. But at least Washington is supposed to suck.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-8, 29th last week): Despite the new presence of Brandon Lloyd (who’s been solid), Sam Bradford has continued to look like a mediocre quarterback. And don’t call it a sophomore slump, because he really wasn’t particularly good as a rookie, either. Count us as concerned about the 2010 top pick.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-10, 32nd last week): Hey, at least the punter’s been great.