NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs, not Raiders, will end up winning the AFC West
The Kansas City Chiefs’ crazy win on Sunday night will have a significant impact on the playoff picture the rest of the season. And it wasn’t the best result for the Oakland Raiders.
That win set up the Chiefs to steal the AFC West from the Raiders. No, I don’t hate the Raiders. In fact, I think they’re the most entertaining team in the league this season. Yes, I watch the games. It’s even possible they’re slightly better than the Chiefs. No, I’m not a Chiefs fan/Kansas City native/Andy Reid’s nephew. And no, I don’t want to (redacted) or think that’s physically possible anyway.
That should answer most of the Raiders’ fans comments for the week.
Here’s part of why I like the Chiefs going forward: They’re getting better, with Justin Houston finally back (his return was easily the most underrated story of the NFL season; Houston is a $100 million player for a reason), Tyreek Hill emerging as a much-needed playmaker in a bland offense and the Chiefs presumably getting injured impact players like Dee Ford and Jeremy Maclin back soon.
More than that, it comes down to schedules and tiebreakers.
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The Chiefs beat the Raiders in Oakland on Oct. 16 (and did so fairly handily). If the Chiefs beat Oakland in Kansas City – on what should be a cold Thursday night on Dec. 8 – they’ll own the tiebreaker. And the Chiefs will be favored in that game.
The Raiders’ remaining schedule is difficult. They still have road games left against the Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos. Even Sunday’s home game against the Bills isn’t a gimme. The Chiefs’ schedule is tough too, but as long as they handle business at home on that Thursday night against the Raiders, they’ll be in good shape. If the Chiefs beat the Raiders on Dec. 8, the Raiders might have to go 4-0 in the rest of their games to win the division. They’re in front now, but it’s going to be tough to hold off the Chiefs.
That result on Sunday night, when Cairo Santos banked in a field goal for the win after Gary Kubiak decided to try a 62-yard field goal, helped the Chiefs and hurt the Broncos. It might end up hurting the Raiders too.
Here are the power rankings after Week 12 of the NFL season:
32. Cleveland Browns (0-12, Last week: 32)
Hue Jackson was late to his postgame news conference, arriving almost 40 minutes after the game was done. Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal said Jackson was late because he had a long meeting with upper management. Jackson insisted the meeting had nothing to do with his job security. I believe that. However, I also know Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has been impatient and unable to stick to any plan, and it would set the Browns back again to push the reset button if they go 0-16.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-10, LW: 31)
Colin Kaepernick has played pretty well over the last four weeks, and was good on Sunday. This is why it never made sense for the 49ers to seemingly be so worried about Kaepernick’s injury guarantees that they rewrote his contract so he can opt out after the season. Kaepernick playing well isn’t even that much of a positive for the 49ers, because if he plays too well he’ll leave for another team.
30. Chicago Bears (2-9, LW: 30)
I still can’t believe Josh Bellamy dropped that pass in the end zone. Nothing sums up this year’s Bears better than that. On the bright side, was that Matt Barkley performance for real? Putting up 316 yards and three touchdowns, even on 54 attempts, is promising.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9, LW: 29)
Sometimes, if you squint really hard, you see glimpses. The defense shut down a good Bills team in the first half. They played right with Buffalo the whole game. If they can get Blake Bortles’ problems fixed this offseason – far from the sure thing, of course – and they find a good coach, maybe 2017 has some promise? Maybe?
28. Los Angeles Rams (4-7, LW: 27)
I’m skeptical about Jared Goff, but he made some big-time throws against the Saints. Sure, it’s against the Saints’ suspect defense, but a rookie has to start somewhere. And if he continues to play well, we can all wonder why Jeff Fisher wasted nine games with Case Keenum.
27. New York Jets (3-8, LW: 28)
The Jets are still sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 34-year-old having a terrible season on a one-year contract, at quarterback. Every week they do this, I’ll point out here how it makes the Jets look like they have zero idea how to run a football team.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1, LW: 26)
I’m not sure why the Bengals would entertain bringing A.J. Green back this season, unless he’s 100 percent. Maybe not even then. What’s the upside? Trying to win out to finish 8-7-1?
25. Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1, LW: 18)
Last season’s dynamic offense, when it seemed like anyone could make a play at any time, is a distant memory. It’s just David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald this season. Nobody else has been reliable, including quarterback Carson Palmer of course.
24. Carolina Panthers (4-7, LW: 25)
If you take away two great touchdown throws to Ted Ginn and Kelvin Benjamin, Cam Newton was 12-of-27 for 114 yards, no touchdowns and one interception against a Raiders defense that allows 7.9 yards per pass, tied for the second-worst mark in the league. You can’t discount an 88-yard touchdown and a 44-yard touchdown, but the magic Newton had last season hasn’t carried over. His 81.6 passer rating would be the worst of his career.
23. Indianapolis Colts (5-6, LW: 23)
The Colts don’t have one player under age 30 who has more than one interception or two sacks this season. Two of their three players with 40 or more solo tackles are in their 30s. This isn’t some young team that will organically make a big jump next season.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6, LW: 15)
They’re 2-6 since that hot start to the season. Memories of how good they looked in that start (and some solid wins against the Vikings and Falcons since) probably kept them too high in the rankings, until now.
21. Houston Texans (6-5, LW: 17)
I don’t believe the Texans will bench Brock Osweiler this season. It’ll be interesting if they admit a mistake and acquire a new starter next offseason. Like, say, Tony Romo. Houston is married to Osweiler for only two seasons – though they are married to him next season, even if it’s as an $18 million backup.
20. Tennessee Titans (6-6, LW: 24)
A necessary win for the Titans, but we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that the Titans were a terrible end-zone drop away from blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead to a 2-9 team led by Matt Barkley.
19. San Diego Chargers (5-6, LW: 22)
Tyrell Williams has been a nice find. He has 51 catches, 790 yards, five touchdowns and has been fairly consistent outside of two quiet games against the Broncos. And he’s just 24 years old. If Keenan Allen returns healthy next season, Allen, Williams and Hunter Henry is a great young receiving core.
18. New Orleans Saints (5-6, LW: 21)
Rookie receiver Michael Thomas was unstoppable on Sunday. He has 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And he’s going to get only better with the great Drew Brees throwing him the ball.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5, LW: 20)
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith is doing a very nice job. The Bucs have given up three touchdowns the past three games, and smothered the Seahawks on Sunday. Smith had a 66-46 record as Atlanta Falcons head coach. The trend is toward hiring offensive-minded head coaches, but Smith should get a look this offseason too.
16. Green Bay Packers (5-6, LW: 19)
The most surprising turnaround this season might be Davante Adams. He was bad last season. This year he has been a totally different player, and was fantastic in every way on Monday night. It’s a 180 from last season.
15. Baltimore Ravens (6-5, LW: 16)
The crazy thing about Justin Tucker is how easy he makes it look. Eric Edholm wrote that Tucker is the Ravens’ MVP, and it’s hard to disagree. This is his fifth season and he has missed one kick of less than 40 yards in his career, including extra points. That’s 241-of-242 from inside 40 yards. Wow.
14. Minnesota Vikings (6-5, LW: 11)
The problem with the Sam Bradford trade is that it is still Sam Bradford. Sure, he was an upgrade over what the Vikings would have had in a post-Teddy Bridgewater world. But he’s not good. If you were surprised watching him check down all Thanksgiving afternoon and then throwing a soul-crushing pick at the end, you haven’t paid enough attention to his career. And the Vikings are giving up their 2017 first-round pick for this privilege.
13. Miami Dolphins (7-4, LW: 14)
Kiko Alonso had a great rookie season with the Bills in 2013. Then he basically disappeared for two injury-filled years, but is back now. He has 91 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and is one of the biggest reasons the Dolphins are back in the playoff race.
12. Buffalo Bills (6-5, LW: 12)
Sammy Watkins’ 62-yard catch was huge for the Bills. Not just in that game, but for the rest of the season. The Bills don’t have a receiver that’s close to Watkins’ level, when he’s healthy. Hopefully he stays healthy the rest of the season.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, LW: 13)
The Steelers have concentrated heavily on linebackers and defensive linemen in the draft in recent years. Yet, their leader in sacks is 38-year-old James Harrison. And he has only four. Maybe Bud Dupree, last year’s first-round pick who was just activated off injured reserve, gives them a spark. They need one.
10. New York Giants (8-3, LW: 10)
The Giants have only one game remaining against a team that is under .500, and that’s a road game against the 5-6 Eagles. We’ll see how good they are.
9. Detroit Lions (7-4, LW: 9)
In six of the Lions’ seven wins, they have been tied or trailed with 90 seconds left in regulation. The other game, they trailed the Jaguars in the fourth quarter at home before rallying to score 10 unanswered points. Winning every close call like this is unsustainable, yet here we are. Now that they have the tiebreaker over the Vikings, they have to be considered the heavy favorites to win the division.
8. Washington Redskins (6-4-1, LW: 7)
I guess now the refrain is that Kirk Cousins hasn’t proven it against a good defense. He is second in the NFL with 3,540 yards and has a 101.4 rating. At some point, we all just need to admit he’s pretty good.
7. Denver Broncos (7-4, LW: 5)
I don’t have any problem with Gary Kubiak sending Brandon McManus out for the 62-yard field goal. It’s one of the rare situations in which it’s hard to hate any decision he made. Going for it was justifiable. Punting, and virtually ensuring a half of a win, was fine. So was trying a really long field goal, because he has seen McManus hit from that distance in practice and McManus thought his range was 68 yards. I don’t think Kubiak looked at the field goal as a low-percentage gamble. McManus just missed.
6. Atlanta Falcons (7-4, LW: 8)
Tevin Coleman wasn’t great in his return from a hamstring injury, with just 9 yards rushing. But he should be fine moving forward, which means the Falcons’ fantastic offense adds another dangerous piece.
5. Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1, LW: 3)
Before Sunday, the Seahawks had led or been within one score in the fourth quarter of 98 straight games. That streak dated back to when Russell Wilson was still playing quarterback at Wisconsin. The streak ended against the Buccaneers. That’s an astonishing run.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3, LW: 6)
At some point this season, the defense will have Dee Ford, Justin Houston, Jaye Howard, Eric Berry, Marcus Peters and Dontari Poe (and Tamba Hali, and Derrick Johnson … you get the point) healthy and all on the field together. Don’t underestimate this team. They have won 19 of their past 23 games, counting playoffs.
3. Oakland Raiders (9-2, LW: 4)
Despite what I wrote above, the Raiders still deserve this spot ahead of the Chiefs. For now. It doesn’t make their schedule easier down the stretch though, or give them any tiebreaker edges, and that makes their road to a division title tougher.
2. New England Patriots (9-2, LW: 2)
The Patriots needed a fourth-and-4 catch by James White on Sunday to avoid an upset at a terrible Jets team. It’s picking nits a bit but the last time we saw the Patriots look dominant was probably in a 41-25 win against Buffalo. That was Oct. 30.
1. Dallas Cowboys (10-1, LW: 1)
Probably not enough is said about how valuable linebacker Sean Lee has been. He has been tremendous, as usual, and has stayed healthy. He has never played all 16 games in a season, but he has been in all 11 so far this year. That’s a big reason the Cowboys are as good as they are.
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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter!