NFL Power Rankings: Aaron Rodgers is Packers' star, but don't ignore coach Matt LaFleur
The highest winning percentage of any coach with at least 50 NFL games belongs to Guy Chamberlin, who won .784 percent of his games from 1922-27. John Madden is the modern-era leader at .759. Only four coaches ever are over 70 percent.
Matt LaFleur's winning percentage sits at .800 through 45 games. After the Arizona Cardinals' loss on Monday night, LaFleur also leads the team that owns the No. 1 seed in the NFC with four games to go. He has been really good.
When we talk about the Green Bay Packers, LaFleur rarely is mentioned as one of the key figures in their success. That's the Aaron Rodgers effect. He'll get credit for everything, and perhaps rightfully so. But it's hard to argue with LaFleur's success.
LaFleur is 36-9 as a head coach. That's remarkable. LaFleur comes from the Sean McVay tree. McVay had a 51-25 record before Monday night's game for a .671 winning percentage. LaFleur is well ahead of his much more celebrated counterpart.
Here's where plenty of people dump all of the credit on Rodgers, a true generational quarterback. Mike McCarthy won 61.8 percent of his games and a Super Bowl with Rodgers, and nobody gives McCarthy much credit for that. LaFleur will have the same experience until we see what he does without Rodgers, but that's probably unfair.
LaFleur has done very well this season. The Packers have spent most of the season without left tackle David Bakhtiari, cornerback Jaire Alexander and pass rusher Za'Darius Smith, three elite players. They're still 10-3 without them. LaFleur had to massage two distinct Rodgers situations, first when he reported to camp after an offseason of wanting to be traded, and then when Rodgers made headlines for misleading comments about his COVID-19 vaccination status. To a lesser extent, Davante Adams' displeasure with his contract could have been a distraction. LaFleur has kept it together and the Packers continue winning. Even when the Packers were significantly shorthanded for a game at the Cardinals, they found a way to win. That's not all due to Rodgers.
The Packers have flaws, like any contender. The rash of injuries on their offensive line is becoming a problem. There still isn't an abundance of talent in the passing game after Adams. But LaFleur has earned the benefit of the doubt that he can scheme his way through it.
Of course, none of it matters if LaFleur doesn't win in the playoffs. In fact, he'll be blamed for anything short of a Super Bowl title (ask post-2010 McCarthy about this dynamic). Losing at home in the NFC championship game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, when he made the infamous decision to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown late in the game, overshadows a lot of LaFleur's success. Taking a job with Rodgers as your quarterback means there's a high bar to cross, and even winning 80 percent of your regular-season games won't satisfy everyone.
All LaFleur can do is keep winning games and see what the playoffs bring. Green Bay has a shot at the NFC's No. 1 seed. If the Packers get that, perhaps LaFleur will get noticed for NFL Coach of the Year. Some recognition for the job he has done is long overdue.
Here are the power rankings following Week 14 of the NFL season:
32. Houston Texans (2-11, Last Week: 32)
Davis Mills played well. Combine his 331-yard game with his fantastic game earlier this season against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, and perhaps over the past four games he can make a case to be the Texans' 2022 starter.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11, LW: 31)
There are now about 8,000 reasons to believe Urban Meyer's tenure goes down with Lou Holtz, Rich Kotite, Adam Gase, Matt Patricia, David Shula, Bobby Petrino or any of the disastrous coaching tenures in NFL history. It's so bad, something like this barely makes a top-25 list:
#Jaguars HC Urban Meyer was asked about Andre Cisco playing more (again). He said “Cisco is playing a little bit more, I believe, I don’t have his numbers in front of me”
Cisco played 0 defensive snaps yesterday.
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) December 13, 2021
30. Detroit Lions (1-11-1, LW: 31)
The Lions didn't have a lot of gas left after getting that first win in Week 13, and being without so many players didn't help. There was motivation when Detroit still was searching for a victory. Dan Campbell's challenge the rest of the way is keeping his team playing hard without anything tangible to chase.
29. New York Jets (3-10, LW: 29)
Zach Wilson, before the last six minutes of garbage time and stat padding, was 10-of-26 for 92 yards. It's too early to write off Wilson, but it's not too early to be concerned that he's having a really bad rookie season.
28. New York Giants (4-9, LW: 28)
Kenny Golladay has 24 catches for 424 yards and no touchdowns with three missed games due to injury. That's after a 20-338-2 line last season when he dealt with injuries. Over the past two seasons, that's 44-762-2 over 15 games. The Giants paid him $72 million for four years this past offseason.
27. Chicago Bears (4-9, LW: 27)
Jakeem Grant had a fantastic 97-yard punt return and also scored on a 46-yard catch. He's 29 years old and never made much of an impact with the Dolphins before his time with the Bears, so it's unlikely Chicago unearthed a future star. But the highlights were fun and he'll be a good kick returner for the near future.
26. Carolina Panthers (5-8, LW: 25)
The Panthers are becoming a real mess. With how impulsive team owner David Tepper has been since taking over the franchise, coach Matt Rhule's future has to be a topic of conversation over these last few weeks of the season.
25. Atlanta Falcons (6-7, LW: 26)
Cordarrelle Patterson started out this season as a gadget player doing a little bit of everything. Then in the last three weeks he has 16, 13 and 16 rushing attempts, becoming more of a regular featured running back than a versatile chess piece. It's working, and Patterson is still the Falcons' most reliable offensive weapon.
24. Seattle Seahawks (5-8, LW: 24)
Tyler Lockett's big day pushed him over 1,000 for the season and he's 34 yards from his career high with four games to go. Lockett has been very good for years, and he has taken his game to a new level this season.
23. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7, LW: 18)
If you're going to be obnoxious and get hyped up on the other team's logo at midfield before a game, you can't get blasted 35-0 in the first half.
22. New Orleans Saints (6-7, LW: 23)
Alvin Kamara came back and promptly rushed for 120 yards on 27 carries. He also had four catches for 25 yards. So much for easing him in. You can't blame the Saints for giving Kamara all he could handle; he is pretty much all they have on offense as they try to stay in the wild-card hunt.
21. Miami Dolphins (6-7, LW: 21)
DeVante Parker could have a nice impact down the stretch. He is finally healthy again, and whenever he has played he has been a favorite target of Tua Tagovailoa. It's a big final stretch of the season for the 28-year-old Parker, whose career has been full of ups and downs.
20. Washington Football Team (6-7, LW: 17)
Not only did Washington lose, Taylor Heinicke was banged up and Terry McLaurin suffered a concussion. Washington is still in the wild-card race, but it's not staying in it long if the injuries keep piling up.
19. Minnesota Vikings (6-7, LW: 22)
The Vikings aren't dead yet. In a bad NFC wild-card race, they're actually very much alive. The problem is, do you trust the Vikings to not blow games down the stretch? They tried their best to screw up that Steelers win last week.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7, LW: 19)
Of the five 6-7 teams in the NFC, the Eagles have the best odds to make the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders, at 36.8 percent. No offense to the Eagles, but if they make the postseason it's more proof the NFL shouldn't have expanded the playoff field.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1, LW: 15)
T.J. Watt was on the sideline in the second half of last week's game due to a groin injury. His status for Sunday's game against Tennessee is of utmost importance to the Steelers' playoff hopes.
16. Denver Broncos (7-6, LW: 20)
The Broncos had a pretty good week for their playoff hopes. Their game against the Bengals next week is huge for their postseason chances, and a playoff berth could trickle down to long-term decisions made in the offseason.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6, LW: 13)
The Bengals showed a lot of moxie to tie Sunday's game against the 49ers. Joe Burrow was great late in the fourth quarter. And that's all well and good, but they ultimately lost and with a game on deck at the Broncos, they're in danger of falling behind in a tough AFC playoff race.
14. Cleveland Browns (7-6, LW: 16)
The Browns won and that's all that matters. But Kareem Hunt went down with an injury. The offense still doesn't look great. The defense made Tyler Huntley look pretty good after he replaced Lamar Jackson. It's just hard to get excited about this Browns team.
13. San Francisco 49ers (7-6, LW: 14)
George Kittle became the first tight end ever with 150 yards and a touchdown in back-to-back games. He's a special player.
12. Indianapolis Colts (7-6, LW: 11)
Linebacker Bobby Okereke knows what the Patriots, who the Colts face Saturday, do well and what Indianapolis needs to do to slow them down. “They can run the [ball] and man on man, match up well physically against teams. That’s a pride point for us, and we’re just ready to attack the run and really make them one-dimensional," Okereke said via NESN. If the Colts can slow down New England's rushing offense, they have a shot at a big win. It won't be easy.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (8-5, LW: 12)
A few days before a huge Thursday night game against the Chiefs, the Chargers put left tackle Rashawn Slater on the COVID-19 list. If he has to miss the game that's a big loss for the Chargers offense, which is already monitoring the health of Austin Ekeler's ankle.
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-5, LW: 8)
John Harbaugh sounded optimistic that Lamar Jackson will play this week through an ankle injury. Even if Jackson plays, will he be effective? We all know Jackson needs his mobility to be himself.
9. Buffalo Bills (7-6, LW: 9)
Bills fans are not happy with a non-call on what could have been pass interference on Stefon Diggs. If the Bills get that call, they would have had first-and-goal with the chance to win in regulation. You make the call:
This looks like the definition of pass interference. pic.twitter.com/ScwHdOVVpw
— National Football Post (@FootballPost) December 13, 2021
8. Tennessee Titans (9-4, LW: 10)
Julio Jones came back and had 33 yards on four catches. Maybe he needs to get back in the groove after missing time due to injury. Or maybe this is just all Jones will be going forward.
7. Los Angeles Rams (9-4, LW: 7)
That was the kind of win that can spark a late-season run. The Rams were up against it, especially after cornerback Jalen Ramsey and tight end Tyler Higbee were put on the COVID-19 list, and they found a way to win. Credit to stars Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald for clutch performances.
6. Dallas Cowboys (9-4, LW: 6)
Ezekiel Elliott had 12 carries on Sunday. Corey Clement, who had nine carries for 20 yards before Sunday, had 13 carries against Washington. Elliott had 45 yards and little-used Clement had 44. Elliottt's fade this season is a real issue.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, LW: 5)
The Chiefs outscored the Raiders 89-23 this season. Was Sunday's blowout win over the Raiders the case of an advantageous matchup for Kansas City, or a sign that they're ready to take off? We'll know more after Thursday when they face the Chargers. With a win, the Chiefs will be nearly impossible to catch in the division.
4. New England Patriots (9-4, LW: 4)
The Patriots are now two games clear of the Bills in the AFC East. The loss by the Ravens also helped them a little bit, in terms of getting the No. 1 seed. It means they're under a little less pressure going into a tricky game at Indianapolis on Saturday.
3. Arizona Cardinals (10-3, LW: 1)
The Cardinals were the best team in football for three months. Then they lose a competitive game, in large part because of two interceptions by Kyler Murray, and they drop all the way to the No. 3 seed in the NFC. Life in the NFL isn't fair sometimes.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3, LW: 3)
Leonard Fournette had 113 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Bills. Fournette was cut by the lowly Jaguars last season and was almost cut by the Buccaneers late in the season when he wasn't fitting with the offense. It is a surprising career turnaround for a player who looked like a sure bust not long ago.
1. Green Bay Packers (10-3, LW: 2)
A healthy Aaron Jones had five carries on Sunday night. A.J. Dillon had 15. Jones has a lot of value as a receiver too, but it seems clear Dillon is the preferred back now.