And then there were eight.
Despite the world over complaining about the Brock Osweiler and Connor Cook matchup in the first game of this year’s NFL Playoffs, none of the three remaining games on the weekend were all that competitive. There were no upsets as all four home teams advanced, setting up this coming weekend’s Divisional Round.
For four teams, the season came to an end. They are locked in slots nine through twelve as we inch closer to our final Power Rankings of the season.
So how does the Top 12 look this week?
12. Detroit Lions (Last Week No. 9): The reality is that when Matthew Stafford hurt his hand, their season was done. The defense played well ll year, but Stafford put forth an MVP effort through 12 weeks of the season, willing this team to victories. They ran out of gas in Seattle.
11. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: No. 12). I have no idea how Matt Moore came back into this game after that hit, but man, we said last week we loved this guy’s heart and that hasn’t changed. If he didn’t fumble in the waning seconds of the first half, this would have been a different game. Alas, the Dolphins head into the offseason with a big question mark at the quarterback position.
10. New York Giants (Last Week: No. 8). Honestly, these guys should drop out of the Top 12 for the poo poo they pulled this week. First the boat trip and then OBJ’s temper tantrum is an embarrassing way to end the season that looked as if the G-Men turned the corner. In the end, it was the same old Giants.
9. Oakland Raiders (Last Week: AFC No. 10). Remember one thing. The Raiders would NOT have beaten the Texans with Derek Carr… because they would have had the first round bye. Yes, it’s ok to feel bad for them, but this team was a year ahead of the curve. They will have a lot of time to regroup this offseason, and are clearly perennial contenders for a few years to come.
8. Houston Texans (Last Week: No. 11). There are eight teams lefts standing, so the Brock Osweiler-led Texans break the top ten. This defense is Super Bowl caliber, and Brock played mistake-free, smart football… last week. If he (and their abysmal offensive line) can’t extend drives and keep the Pats off the field, it won’t matter how good their defense is in Foxboro, they’ll be gassed.
7. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: NFC No. 7). Welcome to the party Thomas Rawls. The Seahawks looked like the Seahawks this past weekend. Strong defense, solid ground attack, and a few questionable calls they got away with. Can they win on the road against the best offense in the NFC? Well, that’s another question entirely.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: AFC No. 6). We haven’t gotten to watch Big Ben, AB and Le’Veon Bell operate together all that much this season, so it was nice to see what happens when they do. Miami had a pretty stellar defense this season and Antonio Brown and Bell simply went off. If they were home this coming week, they’d have a huge edge, but here’s a chance for Big Ben to get that road monkey off his back.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: AFC No. 5). The Chiefs defense vs. the Steelers offense is one of the better matchups of the weekend. Both are explosive. If they can continue to stymie Big Ben on the road, you’ll be looking at Andy Reid in the AFC Championship game.
4. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: NFC No. 4). Aaron Rodgers is good. They’ve lost just about everybody on this team at some point this season, and now Rodgers is short his favorite weapon, as Jordy Nelson hopes to be back by the Super Bowl. The Cowboys defense is softer the the Giants and they decimated them. Rodgers will throw for three to four touchdowns this week. Will the Cowboys keep up?
3. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: No. 3). See above. They have a tall order this week against one of the hottest offenses in the NFC. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have shined all season. Can the rookies continue to carry the load? Rookies haven’t always fared well in the playoffs, and the Packers will make it even tougher.
2. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: No. 2). The Falcons got the matchup they wanted. The Giants defense would have been tough for the Falcons and nobody wants to face the Packers unless they have to right now. Plus, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have a score to settle with Seattle. This should be a fun game.
1. New England Patriots (Last Week: No. 1). It’s nice that the Patriots have two byes this postseason. I kid — and as a Texans fan I hold out hope this defense is strong enough to compete — but the reality is, the Pats are just that good. Tom Brady has been on a mission all year long and they got the matchup they needed to get the engines rolling this week.