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Sports Strength

The Bengals Climb In Final NFL Power Rankings

By this time next week, the 102nd NFL regular season will have already come to a close. Beyond the novelty of being the first Week 18 in NFL history, this final slate of regular season games will be the final chapter of what’s been the most exciting playoff race the NFL has had in a long time. Below are our latest power rankings before we enter the last week of this NFL season.

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1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Another Sunday means another win for the Packers. Because of their 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, they’ve officially clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, giving them bye week during the Wild Card Round and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

In order to regain the AFC’s No. 1 seed that they lost Sunday, the Chiefs’ defense has to rediscover its previous success after consecutive shaky outings against the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals.

3. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

At this point, the Rams have proven both their toughness and their talent. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Rams are fresh off a road win against a hungry Baltimore Ravens team that’s fighting for a playoff spot.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Despite the bizarre mid-game departure of wide receiver Antonio Brown, during an unexpectedly close game against New York Jets, Tom Brady and Co. avoided all distractions by producing a last-minute game-winning drive.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

While it’s tempting to say “same old Cowboys” immediately after their 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, that response would be a mistake. The newly-crowned NFC East champion is closer to being the team we watched win their previous four games than the lackluster unit that took the field on Sunday .

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6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Every year, a dark horse makes a deep playoff run and emerges as a serious Super Bowl contender. This year, the Bengals seem poised to become that team. The young AFC North upstart just won their first division title in seven years and Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase are already arguably the league’s most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver duo.

7. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

The Bills deserve a lot of credit for taking care of business during a snowstorm and defeating the pesky Atlanta Falcons. With a win this week, the Bills would clinch their second consecutive division title, which is essential for a chance at an extended postseason run.

8. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

For the first time in franchise history, the Titans have won the AFC South in consecutive seasons. Even better news: superstar running back Derrick Henry could be returning sooner rather than later.

9. New England Patriots (10-6)

Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t the most imposing opponent, but the Patriots deserve some style points for beating them so thoroughly. Over the course of their 50-10 romp, the Pats offered a reminder that they’re still a dangerous squad, especially in the cold, hostile Gillette Stadium.

10. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

The Colts may have blown their first chance to punch their ticket to the postseason, but they’re still in a good spot, having won six of their last eight games. One minor hurdles remains between them and the playoffs: a road date in Jacksonville, a place the Colts haven’t won a game since 2014.

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Sports Strength

Ranking The Ten Best Teams In The NFL Right Now

As we arrive at the halfway point of the 2021 NFL regular season, there is a lot to unpack. We’ve witnessed significant injuries that were brutal to watch. The pairing of some new faces in new places has worked out, and for others? Not so much. The Super Bowl curse is once again working its magic while last year’s ultimate victor looks in good enough shape to repeat.

But regardless of such truth, we are beginning to witness the ‘cream of the crop’ rise in the NFL and position themselves for that huge second-half run that leads one team to championship glory. Down below is a ranking of the top ten best teams across the league right now!

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  1. Green Bay Packers (7-1) – Ever since a stunningly bad 38-3 season-opening loss against the New Orleans Saints, the Packers have been the NFL’s best team. Having reeled off seven consecutive victories, Aaron Rodgers and Co. are becoming the league’s version of “Mr. Reliable,” and that’s not a bad thing to be halfway through the season.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – There’s very little doubt about the Cardinals, and rightfully so, but concerns are starting to emerge about their run defense. Can they compete for a championship if they’re allowing 120 rushing yards per game and the league’s second-highest yards per carry average to running backs? Even so, the duo of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins makes Arizona’s offense so special that it’s unwise to doubt this team.
  3. Los Angeles Rams (7-1) – Regardless of where they finished after the regular season, either as NFC West champion or a wild-card participant, the Rams have all the tools necessary to make a championship run. And now that they traded for Pro Bowl pass rusher Von Miller too? Sheesh!
  4. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) – While struggles in their secondary could negatively impact their season (They’ve allowed 31 plays of at least 20 yards downfield), all is well in Dallas. Offensively, the Cowboys are clicking at a high level and have demonstrated that they’re capable of winning tight games, as evidenced by nailbiters against New England and Carolina. 
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) – The defending Super Bowl champion could certainly use improvements all across the board and better health, but that hasn’t completely stopped them from looking dominant at times. Quarterback Tom Brady leads the NFL in passing yards (2,650) and touchdowns (25); maybe he actually can play until he’s 50-years-old.
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6. Buffalo Bills (5-2) – Does anyone know what to expect from the Bills? Sure, they produced a pair of dominant wins with a combined score of 75-0, but losses to the Titans and Steelers could portend playoff disappointment.  

7. New Orleans Saints (5-2) – Although quarterback Jameis Winston’s season-ending knee injury couldn’t arrive at a worse time, the Saints should survive, thanks to the top-notch coaching of Sean Payton and his staff. The confidence of the Saints’ defense is growing every week as they rank ninth in takeaways (13). Offensively, the reunited running-back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram will be prepared to carry the load.

And lastly, the potential return of superstar receiver Michael Thomas from an ankle injury could add a new dynamic to the Saints’ attack.

8. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – Even with quarterback Lamar Jackson playing the best football of his career and being Superman and saving the day nearly every week, the Ravens haven’t consistently played like a 5-2 team. Three of their wins came at the hands of late-game collapses by Indianapolis, Kansas City, and the win-less Detroit Lions, and every week it’s a question of which Ravens will step up to help their former league MVP.

9. Tennessee Titans (6-2) – It’s easy to look at the Titans and say they’re in massive trouble with star RB Derrick Henry being out for six-ten weeks, but if they have a saving grace, it’s their remaining schedule. Minus their upcoming Sunday night matchup against the LA Rams, the Titans have the third-easiest schedule remaining across the NFL. And when considering the current state of the AFC South, the Titans may only need four or five more wins to repeat as divisional champions.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) – If you’re this AFC North upstart, you hope last Sunday’s loss to the NY Jets was only a bump in the road. Many great things are happening with this team, especially with QB Joe Burrow and WR Jamarr Chase arguably the league’s hottest duo, but a greater level of consistency and finishing games will determine their postseason fate as the regular season rolls on.

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Sports Strength

Why the Cincinnati Bengals Nailed the Ja’Marr Chase Draft Pick

After the 2021 NFL Draft, the draftnik Twitterati sneered at the Cincinnati Bengals for choosing JaMarr Chase (a mere wide receiver) with the fifth overall pick over Penei Sewell (a righteous and strong offensive lineman). Nevermind that Chase was widely considered to be one of the best receiver prospects in recent history or that Chase and Joe Burrow (the Bengals franchise quarterback) were former college roommates—by passing on Sewell, the Bengals had condemned their franchise quarterback Joe Burrow to a career of punishment and pressure behind a deeply permissive offensive line. 

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This year, Chase is proving that sometimes, it turns out, memes are wrong. Through the first seven games of his career, Chase is on pace to become the greatest rookie receiver ever—no receiver has ever been more prolific than Chase through the first seven games of their career. And beyond the scope of history, Chase has also been one of the most best pass-catchers in the NFL this season: he has the second-most receiving yards (754) and yards per catch (21.5 yards), the fourth-most touchdowns (six) and the fifth-most yards after the catch (267).

In addition to his individual productivity, Chase has provided kindling for a suddenly explosive offense. Whether it be causation or correlation, the Bengals’ offense has surged this year with Chase, averaging 27.0 points per game, up from 21.3 points per contest in the 10 games that Burrow started last season; with a 5-2 record, the Bengals have already won more games than they did in either 2020 or 2019.  

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The most startling thing about Chase, though, isn’t just his immediate greatness; it’s how naturally his greatness has manifested itself. There’s nothing revelatory about his game—he’s a fast, but hardly a burner like Tyreek Hill; he runs crisp routes, but lacks the hummingbird twitchiness of Davante Adams; he has strong, sure hands (in the regular season, at least), but not DeAndre Hopkins’s magnetic grip. Instead, Chase succeeds by simply being better than the guy guarding him; it’s hard to identify a single reason for his unstoppableness besides the fact that nobody can stop him. 

As such, Chase represents the crest of the new wave of wide receivers that has crashed upon the league in recent years. Within the last decade, football coaches at all levels have ditched the old customs and empowered players like Chase as offensive spread and air raid principles have been mainstreamed and, in turn, passing attacks have grown increasingly high-wattage. Viewed from a macro lens, the emergence of Chase—or a Chase-level rookie receiver—is inevitable; in this sense, Chase’s most special and singular accomplishment isn’t simply setting any record, but rather creating an expanded realm of the possible so that the next person can one day break it.